Gunfight Tied To Religious Dispute Kills 4 In Central African Republic

Wednesday, March 14th 2007, 6:01 pm
By: News On 6

KAGA-BANDORA, Central African Republic (AP) _ Four people died in a gunbattle apparently set off Wednesday by a dispute between Muslims and Christians, police and local officials said.

Shooting erupted about midday in the Adramane neighborhood of Sibut, a town of about 30,000 people 115 miles north of the capital, Bangui, according to an Associated Press correspondent on the scene.

Four people died from bullet wounds _ all Muslim and all apparently shot by hunting rifles _ said two military policemen who helped carry wounded to the hospital and said they saw the bodies. Both men spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to give information to journalists.

The military police said four people were seriously injured and at the hospital. Hospital officials could not be immediately reached.

The government prefect in Kaga-Bandoro, a major town in the central region, confirmed the clash but said he did not have information on deaths. Jean-Christophe Bureau said tensions had been high in Sibut since a group of Christians killed cows belonging to Muslims a week ago.

Central African Republic is a predominantly Christian country. Members of the Muslim minority are often referred to as ``foreigners,'' on the assumption they come from the country's northern neighbors, the predominantly Islamic nations of Chad and Sudan.

Central African Republic, a nation about the size of Texas, has seen sporadic banditry and fighting blossom into rebel movements in the northwest and northeast in recent months. French troops have been called in to help push back a group of rebels in the northeast.

Some in Sibut said they were worried that the incident could portend worse fighting.

``The situation is still boiling and we are afraid it is getting out of control,'' said Sylvestre Banguimbi, a civil servant in Sibut who said he heard the gunfire but had no other information.

State radio reported late Wednesday that the country's home affairs minister would travel to Sibut on Thursday to try to calm tensions.