Clashes rocked a volatile Muslim-majority area of the Central African Republic capital Bangui for a second day Thursday in tit-for-tat violence after a vendor was killed by a local militia.
The PK5 district has become a flashpoint in the country, already weakened by sectarian violence and dogged by militias.
“It started with a dispute between a petrol seller and armed youths,” said Awad Al Karim, the imam of the Ali Babolo mosque, explaining that the vendor did not want to pay a tax imposed by a local self-defence unit.
Two youths then lobbed a grenade, killing a 40-year-old man. The victim’s family turned to a rival militia to avenge his killing, sparking clashes on Wednesday.
Gunfire continued overnight and into Thursday, the spokesman for the UN mission in CAR Vladimir Monteiro told reporters.
“We have sent patrols in the district,” he said.
Medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said 10 people were recorded as injured on Thursday morning.
Shooting resumed Thursday morning and shops in the area’s arterial Barthelemy Boganda Avenue were closed and the streets were deserted, a journalist said.
“It started from a simple case of racketeering. However, the market is empty and people are scared,” a shopkeeper said.
The distinction between fighters and civilians is sometimes difficult to draw in the PK5 district, a major economic hub which has been a battleground on and off since 2014.
The CAR plunged into conflict in 2013 after the country’s longtime leader Francois Bozize was ousted by a predominantly Muslim rebel alliance called the Seleka.
Nominally Christian militias called the anti-Balaka emerged in response, accelerating a cycle of sectarian violence.
Former colonial power, France intervened militarily from 2013 to 2016 to expel the Seleka and then wound down the operation.
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