BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) — Fighters with the former Seleka rebel group attacked a northern town in Central African Republic overnight Wednesday, and clashes left at least 30 dead and 57 wounded as United Nations peacekeepers confronted them, the U.N. said.
The attack in Kaga-Bandoro was likely retaliation for the death on Tuesday of a suspected former Seleka member, the peacekeeping mission said in a statement. Peacekeepers repelled the attackers, killing at least 12 of them, the U.N. mission said.
The U.N. condemned the violence that saw rebels attack civilians, target authorities and loot aid organizations.
Armed men attacked a secondary school during a teacher training, witnesses told the U.N. children's agency, saying that among those killed were three teachers, the director of an educational center and the vice president of the parents association.
"We are deeply shocked by these developments and saddened that teachers have been targeted," said Mohamed Malick Fall, UNICEF's representative in the country.
A local priest said he saw that two humanitarian workers were also among the dead. He spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear for his safety.
More than 5,000 people already displaced by years of violence have taken refuge next to the U.N. base, their informal settlements burned, the U.N. Office for Humanitarian Affairs said.
"There is, today, no legitimate reason for any armed group to use weapons," said the U.N. mission's chief, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga. "The people have suffered enough and are tired of this war that has lasted too long."
Central African Republic descended into conflict in 2013 when the mostly Muslim Seleka rebels overthrew the Christian president. That ushered in a brutal reign in which the rebels committed atrocities. When the rebel leader left power, a backlash by the Christian anti-Balaka militia against Muslim civilians followed.
The sectarian violence has continued, despite a high-profile visit by Pope Francis last year to appeal for calm.
Hundreds of former Seleka fighters have regrouped in Kaga-Bandoro, along with Muslim civilians, after fleeing the capital, Bangui, two years ago.
Associated Press writer Carley Petesch in Dakar, Senegal, contributed to this report.