20 December 2013

Central African Republic: VOA Journalist Survives Mob Attack in CAR Capital

Journalists are among those getting caught up in the violence afflicting the Central African Republic.

Idriss Fall, a correspondent for VOA's French-to-Africa Service, says an armed group attacked his vehicle Friday as he traveled through a mostly Christian neighborhood north of the capital, Bangui.

"We were kind of surrounded by almost 200 people having machetes, guns, stones. I asked my driver not to stop and he told me, 'if you run away, they will attack us,'" he said. "And he slowed down, trying to talk to them - at the time, you know, in the middle of a mob - stones, they began throwing them, hitting their machetes on the car. And, we were lucky because 200 meters away, there were two armored vehicles with French soldiers. They drove [over] and contained them with their guns. Those French soldiers asked us to return back to the hotel for safety."

Fall says his vehicle was damaged, but that he, his driver and a local assistant escaped unharmed.

At his hotel, Fall received word that an armed group had attacked French journalists on Friday as they traveled through a mostly Muslim neighborhood in Bangui.

He says the armed group destroyed the journalists' vehicle.

"This is mostly mobs, young guys that don't have guns like the Seleka or the anti-balaka," said Fall. "It is mobs, people of the street. Because they are Christian or because they are Muslim. And it is very, very dangerous because you don't know who is controlling what."

Fall says Bangui was mostly quiet when he arrived on Tuesday but that gunfire erupted late Thursday and continued into Friday.

"Since yesterday, there is something brewing here. I don't know what it is but inside the neighborhoods, something is brewing. People are attacking Muslims. Muslims are attacking Christians."

Fall says the situation remains very volatile, and that he has heard reports that several people were killed in the latest unrest.

The Central African Republic has been unstable since March, when mostly Muslim rebels, now known as ex-Seleka, toppled President Francois Bozize.

Killing and looting by the rebels sparked the rise of Christian militias, known as anti-balaka, who have carried out a wave of reprisal attacks.

Former colonial power France and the African Union recently sent additional troops to the country in an effort to restore order - so far without much success.

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