Central African Republic’s president denounced the recent church and mosque attacks in the capital city which killed 24 people and left more than 170 people injured.
Unidentified gunmen stormed the Notre Dame de Fatima church in Bangui during a morning service on May 1, 2018. Grenades were thrown to the church and the militants showered the building with gunfire. Churchgoers were trapped inside and some escaped through a hole in the church wall made by police, reports Reuters.
“Filled with panic, some Christians began to flee until bullets and grenades began to fall in the parish grounds, trapping those who remained in the compound,” Moses Aliou, a priest at the church said.
In retaliation, a mob set a mosque on fire and lynched two Muslims. However, reports can’t confirm if the death toll came from the church attack only or during the riots in the surrounding areas afterwards.
The church is located near a predominantly Muslim area where another bloody incident happened last month, leaving 21 people dead.
“They (armed groups) want to give religious cover for their political ambitions and for the looting of the country,” said President Faustin-Archange Touadera. “The conflict is not sectarian.”
The president declared three days of national mourning to be observed in the country, according to New Vision Uganda.
Balkissa Ide Siddo of Amnesty International said perpetrators must be apprehended soon to prevent attacks and bloodshed in the future.
Central African Republic is one of the world’s poorest and most volatile countries. It has witnessed several incidents of inter-faith violence since 2013 after longtime leader Francois Bozize was ousted by a Muslim rebel group. Touadera was then elected president to replace the deposed leader. Retaliation killings are frequent since then between Christian communities and Muslim groups.
“Today the enemies of peace want to destroy all the work that has been done for a long time,” said Touadera. He maintained that the church attack should not be blamed in the name of “every Muslim.”