Catholic priest burned to death, over 40 killed in Central African Republic carnage

A boy walks in a camp sheltering internally displaced people (IDPs) next to the M'Poko international airport in Bangui, Central African Republic, February 13, 2016.
A boy walks in a camp sheltering internally displaced people (IDPs) next to the M'Poko international airport in Bangui, Central African Republic, February 13, 2016. | (PHOTO: REUTERS/SIEGFRIED MODOLA)

Two priests, one of whom was burned to death, and dozens of Christians were slaughtered during clashes last week in the Central African Republic.

One of the attacks happened on Thursday at a Catholic mission in Alindao, with over 20,000 refugees that were being sheltered being forced to flee, according to Reuters

“We have counted 42 bodies so far, but we are still searching for others. The camp has been burnt to the ground and people fled into the bush and to other IDP (internally displaced person) camps in the city,” Alindao lawmaker Etienne Godenaha said.

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AFP reported that one of the casualties was a priest who was burned to death, though his name was not immediately provided. Father Mathieu Bondobo, the vicar-general of the main cathedral in the capital Bangui, confirmed, "We found his charred body."

The violence, according to AFP, was sparked by Christian militiamen killing Muslims on Thursday, which prompted revenge attacks, including a church being burned.

The U.N., whose base was also attacked, said that the armed group carrying out the attacks is called Siriri, which was apparently created by Fulani cattle herders, many of whom are Muslim.

The Vatican confirmed that at least two priests were killed in the clashes, according to comments by Pope Francis on Sunday.

“With sorrow I learned of the massacre that took place two days ago in a camp for displaced people in the Central African Republic, in which two priests were also killed,” Francis said on Sunday St. Peter’s Square during the Angelus Prayer. 

“Let us pray for the dead and for the wounded and let us pray that the violence will cease in that beloved country that is in great need of peace."

Najat Rochdi, U.N. humanitarian coordinator in the CAR, condemned the violence in Alindao, which is seen as a stronghold for Muslim militia. At least two U.N. soldiers and a humanitarian aid worker were killed in recent months.

"This vicious cycle of repeated attacks against civilians is unacceptable. Civilians want security, peace and a future," Rochdi said.

CAR has seen such cycles of violence repeat themselves since a 2013 civil war erupted when mainly Muslim Seleka rebels overthrew President Francois Bozize, a Christian.

In July, Father Firmin Gbagoua, the vicar general of Bambari Diocese, was shot dead while he was eating dinner. Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need noted at the time that the clergyman was killed at close range by militia calling themselves the Union for Peace in the CAR.

"We strongly call on the government and MINUSCA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic) to coordinate their efforts so that those responsible for these murders will be arrested and brought to justice," sated the Central African Bishops' Conference then.

"Who does all this violence against the Catholic Church of Central Africa benefit?" they asked.

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