A gun battle broke out on the streets of Bangui as Christian militiamen attempted to prevent Muslims from escaping ongoing violence in the Central African Republic.
The assault began as a troop of Chadian soldiers– part of the African Union-led International Support Mission for Central African Republic (MISCA)– escorted a convoy of Muslims out of Bangui. Witnesses told Reuters that a group of anti-Balaka Christian militiamen blocked the convoy and at least one Muslim was killed.
The convoy was headed for a military base near M’poko airport northwest of the city centre.
A representative of the anti-Balaka militia told Al Jazeera the assault on the convoy was a response to reports of Chadian soldiers attacking Christians in the town of Damara the day before. Civilians in Bangui were angered by these reports and set up roadblocks to prevent the Chadians from leaving the city.
French troops and MISCA soldiers attempted to take down the roadblocks prompting gunfire from some Anti-Balaka fighters.
A History of Violence
The violence in the CAR began with the takeover of the government and the removal of President Francois Bozize in March 2013 by Muslim Seleka rebels. Abuses against the population led to the formation of Christian militia groups known as Anti-Balaka meaning anti-machete in the local language.
Clashes have increased since Seleka leader Michel Djotodia stepped down amidst international pressure. Foreign soldiers have helped evacuate thousands as the UN warns the situation is deteriorating into a religious conflict with the potential to become a genocide.
- Watch Tania Paige’s report for Al Jazeera from Bangui