The Bishop of the Central African Republic dioceses of Bangassou, Mgr. Juan José Aguirre Muños, told Agenzia Fides (24 July 2017): “Half of the population of Bangassou has fled, taking refuge in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo. The clashes have been going on for days.”
The city has been at the centre of attacks for months due to the so-called anti Balaka who target the Muslim members of its population.
“Two thousand Muslims have been welcomed in the fenced area of the Cathedral defended by the Moroccan military of MINUSCA (UN Mission in Central Africa)”, Bishop Aguirre told the Vatican news agency. “But the anti-Balaka are raging in Bangassou, hitting Muslims in all ways, trying to kill them, preventing them from supplying food, water, and wood for cooking. The clashes are continuous and cause deaths on one side and the other.”
“This morning (July 24, ndr.) two anti-balaka attempted to enter the refugee camp but were rejected by MINUSCA and one of them was killed”, Mgr. Aguirre reports.
The previous week there were clashes and serious episodes of violence, which also led to the death of a Moroccan Blue Helmet. “Everything started on Friday July 21, when the anti-balaka kidnapped a young pregnant Muslim”, says Mgr. Aguirre. “In response to the kidnapping, some 15 extremist Muslim youth seized two Caritas humanitarian operators with their families, about thirty people. MINUSCA reacted by releasing these people.”
“The Balaka group replied by attacking the Cathedral, which suffered material damage and wanted to set fire to it. Fortunately, they did not succeed,” continued Bishop Aguirre.
“MINUSCA is trying to control the situation by sending patrols in the streets that shoot warnings, which cause panic among the population. Some people have died of heart attack, while others have been injured”, the Bishop reports.
The bishop is calling for more effective UN support in protecting the population.
A World Watch Monitor interview with Bishop Aguirre can be read by clicking here.