World

100 dead in Central African Republic town, mayor says

Clashes between armed groups in the Central African Republic town of Bria have left at least 100 people dead in the wake of a peace agreement signed this week in Rome that called for an immediate cease-fire, officials said Wednesday.

Security remained so precarious that Red Cross teams could not venture into the streets to collect bodies for burial.

"For the moment, no one dares to go out as everything suggests that fighting can resume at any time," said the Rev. Gildas Gbeni of the St. Louis Catholic mission in Bria. "Witnesses coming from different neighborhoods say they have had to climb over dozens of bodies that now litter the ground."

Mayor Maurice Balekouzou and others put the preliminary death toll at around 100, while several dozen wounded were seeking treatment at the local hospital run by aid group Doctors Without Borders.

Witnesses said the fighting erupted early Tuesday between the anti-Balaka militia and rebels from the group known as FPRC who were once part of the Seleka movement.

The peace deal signed Monday in Rome among nearly all of the country's armed groups had called for an immediate cease-fire. Many were skeptical, however, because previous agreements had quickly failed.

Central African Republic has faced deadly interreligious and intercommunal fighting since 2013, when predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in the capital, Bangui. Mostly Christian anti-Balaka militias fought back, resulting in thousands of people killed and hundreds of thousands displaced.

The impoverished country saw a period of relative peace in late 2015 and 2016, but violence has returned in recent months, especially outside the capital. The Seleka group has splintered into factions, some of them fighting each other.

Bria has seen repeated clashes since May, leaving dozens dead. An estimated 41,000 people there have fled for their lives.