BANGUI: Central African troops battled fighters loyal to the ousted president Monday on the second day of clashes that have killed at least 60 people in one of the deadliest outbreaks since a March coup.
The fighting erupted Sunday near Bossangoa, some 250 kilometers north of the capital Bangui, in the home region of Francois Bozize, who ruled the troubled nation for 10 years until his overthrow six months ago.
Militiamen described as Bozize loyalists infiltrated villages around Bossangoa destroying bridges and other infrastructure and “taking revenge against the Muslim population,” the presidency’s spokesman Guy-Simplice Kodegue said.
“At least 60 people were killed in these attacks,” he said, without elaborating on the casualties.
Michel Djotodia, the man whose Seleka rebel group ousted Bozize in March, was sworn in last month as the Christian-majority Central African Republic’s first Muslim president.
On Monday morning, “heavy and light arms fire” were heard in the district of Bouca, on the road leading to Bossangoa, a military source in Bangui told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The clashes killed at least 10 people Sunday in Bossangoa, including two local employees of the humanitarian organization ACTED, another military source said.
Bozize, who seized power in a 2003 coup, last month said he was ready to return to power “if the opportunity presents itself.”
Last week, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees reported that thousands of people had been displaced and at least eight villages were razed to the ground during recent violence in the north of the country.
The International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA) has supported the army in its attempts to rein in rogue demobilized rebels. But the force has only deployed 750 out of a planned 3,652 troops.