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Dublin: 12 °C Saturday 25 October, 2014

Charity tells of “appalling scenes of murder” in Central African Republic

Médicins sans Frontiéres says that a religious division in the country has left tens of thousands fleeing violence.

THE HEALTH CHARITY Médicins Sans Frontiéres has said that they are treating people in the midst of a wave of sectarian violence in the Central African Republic (CAR).

The charity says that tens of thousands of people have fled in a wave of attacks and killings by armed groups and Government forces in the north-west of the country.

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Teams on the ground are experiencing unprecendented levels of violence, the charity says, which is characterised by religious divisions.

CAR has experienced decades of political-military conflict, with a coup d’etat last March. Seleka, the rebel alliance who led the March 2013 coup, has become de facto the government of CAR. Since early September, violent and deadly clashes between armed groups and Government forces have taken place in different parts of the country. The violence is believed to be centred on religious divisions between Catholics, Muslims and those of traditional tribal beliefs.

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Médecins Sans Frontières has called on all armed groups to respect the safety of civilians, medical staff, and aid workers; and for an urgent increase in humanitarian assistance.

“In the last month, we have treated more than 60 people in Bossangoa for injuries that are the result of violence, largely gunshot and machete wounds, including women and children,” said Médecins Sans Frontières surgeon Erna Rijinierse.

More than 80 per cent of surgeries have been for wounds that are conflict related. Médecins Sans Frontières is horrified by what we are seeing, including burnt villages and appalling scenes of murder. Those who are fleeing are in desperate need of assistance, as well as the sense of protection that the presence of aid agencies brings.

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In the city of Bossangoa, an estimated 28,000 people are sheltering in the Catholic Mission, far exceeding its capacity; 1,200 people are in a hospital, effectively turning half of the building into a makeshift camp; a further 1,000 people are seeking shelter next to an airstrip; while around 400 others have gathered in a school. As the rainy season continues, those in the bush are also particularly at risk of contracting malaria – the number one killer in CAR.

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All pictures courtesy of Médicins Sans Frontieres, Francois Beda, Ton Koene

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