BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) — Raging violence in Central African Republic's capital, including mob attacks and an apparent assassination attempt targeting the lawless country's former justice minister, killed at least nine people over the weekend, witnesses and officials said Sunday.
Bangui is suffering widespread bloodshed and looting despite the presence of thousands of French and African peacekeepers and the appointment of a new transitional leader last month.
On Sunday morning, Rwandan peacekeepers intervened after an angry mob killed a young Muslim man accused of killing a young woman, said Olga Mouth, a resident of Bangui's Fifth District where the incident occurred.
"The young Muslim man was guarding two buildings belonging to Muslim businessmen who fled the city," Mouth said. "The crowd said he attacked the young woman who was sitting outside the buildings selling porridge. This angered the residents, who came out in droves to lynch him before looting and burning the buildings."
Rwandan peacekeepers opened fire on the crowd, killing a man who turned out to be the young woman's uncle, said Mouth.
However, Rwandan Lt. Rosana Nsengimana could only confirm Sunday that one Rwandan peacekeeper had been injured.
Five additional bodies were retrieved from the same neighborhood, he said. "We don't know the circumstances in which these people were killed," he said.
Anti-Muslim violence has escalated in Bangui in recent months, prompting many Muslims to flee the city. On Friday, thousands climbed aboard trucks protected by heavily armed Chadian soldiers in a mass exodus, cheered on by crowds of Christians.
The resentment stems from widespread atrocities committed by the mostly Muslim Seleka rebel coalition, which overthrew the president of a decade in March 2013 and replaced him with their leader, Michel Djotodia.
An armed Christian movement known as the anti-Balaka, aided by loyalists of ousted President Francois Bozize, began retaliating several months later. Djotodia resigned under intense regional pressure last month as the security situation spun out of control. More than 1,000 were killed in a matter of days in December.
Bangui's mayor, Catherine Samba-Panza, was appointed president of a transitional government a few days after Djotodia sought exile in the West African nation of Benin. Her administration faces the momentous tasks of restoring order, fostering reconciliation and organizing elections.
On Friday in The Hague, Netherlands, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court announced a preliminary investigation into potential war crimes or crimes against humanity in Central African Republic, saying the crisis had "gone from bad to worse."
Muslims left behind in Bangui fear for their safety, especially those associated with Djotodia's government.
On Sunday morning the home of Djotodia's former justice minister Arsene Sende came under attack in what one family member described as an apparent assassination attempt.
"Ten armed men who appeared to be anti-Balaka arrived at the ex-minister's house at around 6 a.m. They stabbed Fernand Hamza, the president of the commerce tribunal, and murdered his nephew," said a man who gave his name as Bruno and said he was a brother-in-law of Sende, the ex-minister.
He said the assailants overpowered the ex-Seleka members standing guard and looted the house before fleeing.