World Bulletin / News Desk
Heavy fighting erupted near the airport in Central African Republic's capital Bangui on Wednesday as Christian militia blocked an attempt to evacuate Muslims, witnesses said, disrupting a visit by a top United Nations aid official.
The former French colony has been gripped by cycles of inter-religious killing despite the deployment of about 6,000 African and 1,600 French peacekeepers to halt violence that some diplomats say risked slipping into genocide.
Songokoua Yetinzapa, a Bangui resident living in a vast camp for displaced civilians near the airport, said clashes began after Chadian troops tried to escort a convoy of Muslims out of the city but were blocked by the militia, known as the "anti-balaka".
"I heard several people were killed but I only saw one dead body: a Muslim who was killed by the anti-balaka," he said by telephone as automatic gunfire and an explosion rang out.
A U.N. official said African peacekeepers had been dispatched to reinforce troops in the area near the airport.
Another U.N. official said the fighting had prevented Valerie Amos, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, from travelling to the north of the country where violence between Muslims and Christians has also scattered tens of thousands of civilians.
Seleka rebels toppled President Francois Bozize last March. Killings and abuses carried while they were in power led to the creation of a mainly Christian self-defence militia known as "anti-balaka".
Around 1 million people have been displaced by the violence. U.N. officials estimate that at least 2,000 people have been killed since the start of the crisis, but say the actual figure will be much higher as mass graves as unearthed and killings continue.
Violence has escalated since Seleka leader Michel Djotodia quit power in January under international pressure. Seleka's retreat has led to Muslims fleeing the south and warnings from a top U.N. official of "ethnic-religious cleansing".
Thursday’s vote make Diaz-Canel first person outside Castro family to rule country in almost 60 years
Syrian regime had no clear picture of what was happening to them, says U.S. general, referring to U.S.-led joint attack
Hamas, Islamic Jihad announced plans earlier to boycott scheduled meeting of PLO’s National Council
Canadian provinces at war over future delivery of oil to Pacific countries
Terrorists killed during operations in Saladin governorate
Decision follows Ecuador’s withdrawal as mediator in talks between Bogota and rebel group
The economic damage of trade war will be smaller than its perceived risk, experts say
Top court says in 5-4 decision federal statute is 'unconstitutionally vague'
'Both chlorine and sarin gas were used in the attack,' says State Department spokesperson
Move ‘is just one step in a journey that requires dedication,’ says coffee chain’s CEO
Turkish Air Force targets Zap region in northern Iraq, according to military
German foreign minister calls for reviving political talks after US-led airstrikes on Assad regime
Over $300 million worth of weapons and equipment will go to US allies in Syria if approved by Congress
The Japanese prime minister will make his second visit to Trump's ostentatious Palm Beach, Florida estate, when the focus will be on trade and security.
Still no explanation for illnesses experienced by Canadians, Americans
The ruling comes as the social network is snared in a scandal over the mishandling of 87 million users' data ahead of the 2016 US presidential election.