, BANGUI, Jan 9- Recent violence between rival militia groups has claimed at least six lives at Bambari in the centre of the highly unstable Central African Republic, police said Friday.
“Five people were killed and several injured between Tuesday and Wednesday in clashes that erupted in Bambari between two anti balaka (“anti-machete”) groups for reasons not yet known. The victims were, for the most part, anti balaka,” a police source told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“Following the attacks, certain anti-balaka on Wednesday night went to the house of a local community leader and killed him, accusing him of betraying them. The attackers also burned his house.”
The trading town has since June been the scene of violent clashes that left 100 dead and at least 200 injured, mostly civilians.
Mostly Muslim Seleka fighters backed by armed Muslim civilians have battled the anti-balaka, who emerged in mainly Christian communities to avenge attacks and atrocities, but are themselves accused of serious abuses.
The rebel Seleka coalition that took power in a March 2013 coup has set up its headquarters in Bambari since being routed from the capital Bangui in January last year with the aid of French military intervention.
Violence between rival factions has plunged the deeply poor, landlocked country into an unprecedented political and security crisis. Armed gangs operate with ease in many regions, menacing the population, and extorting and stealing from locals and humanitarian organisations.
A UN commission investigating conflict in the CAR over two years has concluded that both camps have committed crimes against humanity, including “ethnic cleansing”, but considered that foreign intervention prevented the violence escalating into genocide.
The commission estimates that the conflict has resulted in at least 6,000 dead and states that a priority is to “end the impunity” enjoyed by rival forces.
Nationwide, about a quarter of the population — some 930,000 people — was displaced at the height of the conflict at the height of unrest early last year, according to the UN refugee agency.