2,000 seek refuge at Central African Republic Catholic mission after heavy fighting near Bouca

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Aid workers say about 2,000 people have sought refuge in a Catholic mission after heavy fighting erupted in the volatile northwest corner of Central African Republic.

Petula Malo, the head of communications for Caritas in the country, said Wednesday that they had been unable to reach local staff in Bouca after phone lines there went down amid violence in the area.

The northwest of Central African Republic has been rocked by waves of massacres and attacks in recent months between the rebels who overthrew the government in March and local self-defense groups.

Experts warn that tensions have increased dramatically between Christians and Muslims in the region. The Muslim rebels and their allies have attacked scores of Christian villages, and Christian fighters have retaliated against Muslim civilians.