JNN 21 Dec 2013 Bangui : A handful of residents of Fouh, a Christian-majority neighborhood in Bangui, the war-ravaged capital of the Central African Republic (CAR), admitted to torching a local mosque to avenge recent attacks blamed on Muslim Seleka rebels.
“We used to live in harmony with our Muslim neighbors, but when some of them started supporting Seleka rebels and storing weapons for them, we got angry,” one young man, standing only 50 meters from the burnt-out mosque, told Anadolu Agency.
Last week, a mob of angry Christians armed with machetes and clubs destroyed parts of Mosquée Rahma de Fouh and forced local Muslims to flee for their lives.
The young man, who refused to give his name, said he and his friends had torched the mosque one day after Seleka rebels had allegedly attacked their neighborhood and looted Christian shops and homes.
“The only way we could avenge this Seleka attack was by attacking the mosque, because we knew this would bring them pain,” he asserted.
“We don’t want Muslims here; they must go back to Chad,” he added as several of his comrades shouted in agreement.
The group then brazenly posed for photographs while threatening to continue their attacks on Muslims if the latter dared to return to the area.
CAR, a landlocked, mineral-rich country, descended into anarchy in March, when Seleka rebels – said to be mostly Muslims – ousted Christian president François Bozize, who had come to power in a 2003 coup.
The months since have seen the emergence of Christian “anti-balaka” militias, which have engaged in frequent clashes with Seleka fighters.
Both groups are accused of killing civilians based on their religious affiliations.
Hundreds of people have been confirmed killed in recent days in Bangui alone – victims of tit-for-tat sectarian violence.
The young Christians accused local Muslims of aiding foreign fighters.
“Why should we continue to live with Muslims in peace when they support the Seleka, who came from Chad and Sudan to invade our country,” said one, identifying himself only as Moses.
In September, President Michel Djotodia officially disbanded the Seleka, a loose coalition of rebel groups from CAR’s majority-Muslim northern region.
“Any individual or group of individuals that acts in the name of Seleka after the publication of the present decree… will incur the full sanctions under the law,” Djotodia had declared at the time.
Moses justified the attacks on Muslims, saying Christians were merely defending their country from foreign invaders.
“They must kill all of us if they want to take over our country,” Moses contended, as his friends cheered him on with anti-Muslim slurs.
“My brother was cut to pieces by Seleka rebels who are Muslims,” said one man in the group. “And you expect me to like Muslims?”
According to UN estimates, more than 400,000 people – nearly ten percent of the country’s 4.6 million-strong population – have abandoned their homes as a result of the violence.