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In the Central African Republic, an attack in Bangui on Wednesday on the Notre Dame de Fatima church has resulted in the deaths of at least 17 people and 27 civilians reportedly abducted by assailants who drove them to an unknown location.
The attackers - who arrived in pick-up trucks in the early afternoon - threw grenades into the church ground before opening fire on people, using small arms. Those killed during the attack include a priest. Two children and two adults also succumbed to their injuries on Thursday.
At the time of the attack, Notre Dame de Fatima was hosting 9,000 internally displaced people (IDPs), including 2,050 who moved there only a week earlier to escape from a recent rise in insecurity in nearby neighborhoods. Others had been staying there since December 2013.
UNHCR strongly condemns this attack against innocent civilians. We call again all sides of the armed conflict to protect civilians, in line with their obligations under international law. We also call on all sides of the conflict to allow for the delivery of critical humanitarian assistance and unhindered access to the people in need of protection and aid.
Insecurity in the CAR's capital has increased drastically since last weekend. On Sunday 25 May, three people were killed in the PK5 neighborhood, purportedly by Anti-Balaka elements, while they were heading to an inter-communal reconciliation football match. On Monday and Tuesday, the situation remained tense and shootings were reported. On Wednesday, inter-communal hostilities culminated with the attack at Notre Dame de Fatima, which is now totally empty. The attack is among the worst on any IDP site in Bangui since the Seleka group was removed from power in January 2014.
Churches, monasteries and mosques have till now been safe havens for IDPs across CAR. In Bangui where the security situation remains tense, 32 out of 43 IDP sites are religious institutions.
Those who fled from Notre Dame de Fatima have either moved to the surrounding neighborhoods or southwards towards ten sites in Bangui and the adjacent area of Bimbo. Many fled without anything - no money, no food, not even a mat to sleep on. Others had bullet wounds that need to be attended to urgently. Compounding their hardship, the overcrowded IDP sites they moved to face shortages in water, food, shelter and basic healthcare.
The second half of the month of May was also violent in other parts of CAR. In Bambari for example, in the Ouaka province, clashes erupted on May 21 and 24 between French Sangaris elements and armed civilians over the implementation of confidence-building measures and the cantonment of ex-Seleka forces.
Meanwhile, UNHCR partners have documented progressive returns in zones of the northwestern Ouham-Pende and the northern Ouham provinces. With the mixed displacement trends, the overall number of IDPs remains at 557,000 across CAR, including 132,000 in Bangui. There are also 120,994 CAR refugees in neighboring countries.
For more information on this topic, please contact:In Bangui, Akatrina Kitidi on mobile : +236 72 68 4828 In Geneva, Fatoumata Lejeune on mobile +41 79 249 34 83