Bodies Strewn Across Town After Central African Republic Clashes

UN peacekeepers from Gabon patrol in the Central African Republic town of Bria on June 12, 2017.

Photographer: Saber Jendoubi/AFP via Getty Images

A standoff between rival militias in the Central African Republic is preventing aid workers in the southeastern town of Bria from collecting bodies that have lain in the streets since Tuesday.

“The two warring parties have received nothing but reinforcements in the last 72 hours and residents are very worried,” Gildas Gbeni, who heads the Catholic Church in Bria, said by phone Saturday. “The local Red Cross has collected bodies of fighters and civilians but there are still areas where access is difficult.”

Fighting erupted Tuesday between so-called anti-balaka militias and a faction of the FPRC, an organization that belonged to the mainly Muslim rebel alliance that ousted ex-President Francois Bozize in 2013. The violence began a day after the government and 14 armed groups, including the FPRC, signed a peace accord in Rome that called for an immediate cease-fire in the country. The government in the capital, Bangui hasn’t commented on the matter.

The town was already the scene of violence earlier this month, with United Nations peacekeepers who were trying to stop fighters from attacking a camp for displaced people. Tuesday’s clashes, which according to the mayor of Bria have left at least 100 dead, were triggered by disputes over control of diamond-producing zones, according to Arsene Kongbo, deputy mayor of Bria, 585 kilometers (364 miles) southeast of Bangui.

“Armed groups are using the chaos to illegally get diamonds and gold, which allows them to buy weapons and extend their influence to other mining production sites in the area,” Kongbo said by phone.

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