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Rebels attack C. African Republic church sheltering civilians in Bambari, killing at least 17

Officials say at least 17 people are dead after Muslim rebels attacked a Catholic church compound that was housing thousands of displaced civilians.

The Rev. Thibault Ndemaguia said he had counted at least 17 bodies and 10 other people were wounded in the attack. The rebels converged on the St. Joseph Cathedral of Bambari late Monday.

The attack came a day before French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was to travel to the area.

Residents say the rebels had launched the attack in retaliation for the killing of a young Muslim man, and they accused church officials of supporting local Christian militia fighters.

The town of Bambari has seen the heaviest fighting in recent weeks in Central African Republic, which exploded into sectarian violence last December.

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