Hostages executed after clashes in Central African Republic - witness

by Reuters
Thursday, 12 June 2014 19:18 GMT

A Seleka fighters wears a black scarf as he patrols in the town of Kuango, close to the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo June 10, 2014. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

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The violence broke out as a group of Muslims clashed with Christian attempting to block their path

BANGUI, June 12 (Reuters) - Two hostages were publicly executed after deadly clashes this week between Muslims and Christians in Central African Republic, a witness said on Thursday.

Thousands have died and nearly a million Central Africans have fled their homes in the chaos unleashed after mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized Bangui, the capital of the majority Christian nation, last year.

They relinquished power under heavy international pressure in January, but abuses they committed fuelled the rise of so-called anti-balaka Christian militias responsible for revenge attacks that have driven most Muslims from Bangui and the west.

The violence broke out on Monday as a group of Muslims, who were returning to the town of Bambari after carrying out a reprisal raid on a village where two Muslim herders had been killed, clashed with Christian attempting to block their path, local journalist Jean Nono said.

Bambari is home to Seleka's military headquarters.

He said four people were taken hostage in the clashes.

"Two of the four hostages were publicly executed in front of many people on Tuesday in front of Bambari's court of appeals, which is currently the headquarters of Seleka," Nono, who witnessed the executions, said.

Nono said local Red Cross officials said 21 people were killed and nearly 130 homes destroyed in the two days of violence. Reuters was not able to reach Red Cross officials to verify the numbers.

President Catherine Samba-Panza said on Wednesday that she had sent a request to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to open an investigation into crimes committed during the inter-communal violence in her country since mid-2012.

The ICC announced in February it was launching a preliminary investigation for crimes committed since September 2012.

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said she would take a decision soon on whether to bring any cases before the world court.

"The Central African courts are not in a position to carry out the necessary investigations and proceedings efficiently, and consequently, the International Criminal Court's intervention now appears essential," she said on Thursday.

(Reporting by Crispin Dembassa-Kette; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Alison Williams)

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