By BosNewsLife Africa Service with additional reporting by Joseph DeCaro, BosNewsLife International Correspondent
BANGUI, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (BosNewsLife)– Islamic militants have launched a “reign of terror” against Christians in Central African Republic after Seleka rebels took control of the country in a March 24 coup, rights activists said.
Armed with a “hit list” of pastors and places of worship, Seleka rebels systematically looted church property, even seizing money from collection plates, according to Barnabas Fund, a Christian aid and advocacy group working in the region.
The reports, monitored by BosNewsLife Saturday, June 1, come after last month’s report released by the Human Rights Watch group cited “severe violations” committed by Seleka rebels against civilians including rape, pillage and execution.
Among those killed was a church leader after the rebels fired upon a funeral procession on the Ngaragba Bridge in the capital Bangui on April 13, rights investigators said.
“As a result, many Christians have fled into the countryside: more than 200,000 people were displaced while nearly 50,000 others crossed CAR’s borders into neighboring nations,” Barnabas Fund explained.
In a sign of further tensions, the new Seleka-backed government of Central African Republic issued an international arrest warrant Friday, March 31, against deposed former president Francois Bozize, accusing him of “crimes against humanity and incitement to genocide”, the state prosecutor said.
Thousands of fighters from the Seleka rebel coalition, angered by what they claimed was Bozize’s “refusal” to honor an earlier peace deal, marched into the capital Bangui on March 24, forcing him to flee to neighboring Cameroon.
The mineral-rich nation’s new leaders opened an investigation in May into alleged crimes committed during his 10-year reign.
However international diplomats suggest that the many Muslim militants among the Seleka rebels are also responsible for crimes.
Last month, United Nations envoy Margaret Vogt urged the Security Council to debate deploying a security force to contain “the anarchy” in the Central African Republic.
Vogt said there was a “total disregard for international law, as elements of Seleka turn their vengeance against the population”.
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is ‘Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals’ since 2004).
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