Fighters from a former militia group in the Central African Republic (CAR) have attacked civilians in the country's remote north, sparking clashes that left at least 30 people dead and 57 wounded.
UN peacekeepers stationed in the market town of Kaga-Bandoro repelled the overnight assault by the mainly Muslim Seleka militia, the UN said Thursday.
According to witnesses, armed men set fire to buildings and looted NGO and UN premises. They also attacked humanitarian workers and took control of a school, where they killed three teachers taking part in a UNICEF training program, reports said.
Central African Republic's UN peacekeeping mission, known as MINUSCA, said the violence was likely in retaliation for the death on Tuesday of a suspected former Seleka member in the area.
"There was a disproportionate response from ex-Seleka people, who attacked civilians including displaced people hiding in church premises," a statement from the mission said. It added that peacekeepers had killed at least 12 of the attackers. The other 18 fatalities were civilians. Almost 60 people were wounded.
A UN investigation into the attack is underway.
Some 12,000 UN peacekeepers were deployed to the Central African Republic after sectarian violence erupted in the country in 2013. In March of that year, the Seleka rebel alliance ousted the Christian president, Francois Bozize.
A backlash by militias representing the interests of the Christian majority ensued, leaving the country deeply divided along religious and ethnic lines. While armed groups have largely left the capital, Bangui, they continue to cause problems in regional areas.
Many civilians have been displaced by the sectarian violence - around 5,000 of them had sought refuge near the UN base in Kaga-Bandoro. Following the attack on the town, MINUSCA, which has attempted to keep the rival factions from fighting, called for "calm and restraint."
nm/jm (Reuters, AP, AFP)