At least 16 dead as French forces intervene in CAR rebel clashes
French peacekeepers killed up to seven people as they tried to control clashes between armed groups in the Central African town of Bambari that have left at least 16 dead, officials said on Thursday.
Bambari has become a stronghold for the mostly Muslim Seleka rebels that seized control of the country last year and were forced out of power in January.
But factions of the Seleka have clashed with each other as well as the mostly Christian anti-balaka militia and armed Fula tribesmen in recent months.
A police source in Bambari said "violent clashes broke out on Wednesday and carried on into Thursday in Bambari".
"The provisional toll is 16 dead and several injured. It could well increase given the violence of the attacks."
French soldiers killed "five to seven" armed individuals as they tried to bring the violence under control, a spokesman at the army headquarters in Paris added.
Colonel Gilles Jaron said French and African peacekeepers came under attack from an armed group using rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
"We retaliated. We think we killed five to seven individuals," he said.
He said the armed group retreated but pillaged the offices of several NGOs, including the Red Cross. He added that calm had been restored by Thursday.
The region remains highly restive due to splits within the Seleka "between a branch that is more and more radicalised and another which is more open to dialogue to exit the crisis," said Jaron.
The presence of other armed groups have further complicated the situation.
Fierce clashes took place in Bambari in June and July, leaving more than 100 dead and at least 200 injured, mostly civilians. Tens of thousands fled.
At the end of August, 11 people died when anti-balaka fighters attacked a Fula camp in nearby Ngakobo, which also saw its mayor assassinated last week.
© 2014 AFP