BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) — Days of clashes in Central African Republic between sectarian rebel groups has left at least 37 people dead and many displaced in the central region, the local Red Cross said Thursday.
Violence flared in Alindao, some 100 kilometers (62 miles) east of Bambari on Saturday and Sunday as a faction of the mostly Muslim Seleka rebel group fought with the Christian anti-Balaka forces.
Central African Republic descended into conflict in 2013 when the mostly Muslim Seleka rebels overthrew the country's Christian president, ushering in a brutal reign. The Christian anti-Balaka militia then retaliated with a backlash against Muslim civilians.
The country held successful democratic elections last year, but many remote areas remain outside the government's control. Violence by armed groups has risen sharply since late last year. Factions of the Seleka rebel group have also started fighting each other for control in the central region.
"No shots have been heard for more than 24 hours, a sign of hope for a return to calm," Severin Ngoumango, a priest in Alindao, said. He said thousands of displaced people have been registered by the Catholic mission there, and they face the added worry of rains and flooding.
Also Thursday, the United Nations reported the death toll had risen to five from an attack Monday by anti-Balaka fighters against U.N. peacekeepers in Bangassou, a city in Central African Republic's southeast. Eight fighters with the Christian rebel group were also killed.
The U.N. peacekeeping mission, launched in 2014, now has more than 12,000 troops deployed. Some 890,000 people have been displaced inside the country and into neighboring Cameroon, the U.N. says.
Amnesty International and civil society groups in the Central African Republic launched a national campaign Thursday urging authorities to take tougher action against impunity and calling for international funding for the country's new Special Criminal Court.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the Security Council have strongly condemned the attack and called for those responsible to face justice.
Meanwhile, the military mission of the European Union said the first battalion of 650 Centrafrican soldiers which trained by the mission was presented to authorities in Bangui on Thursday.