According to aid and security sources, gunmen attacked the town of Bria, located approximately 580 km (360 mi) northeast of the capital Bangui, on Tuesday morning, June 20. The assailants, suspected of belonging to the Christian Anti-Balaka militia, were pushed back by Popular Front for the Rebirth of the Central African Republic (FPRC) militants, a predominantly Muslim armed group that formed out of the former Seleka coalition. At least 40 people were killed in the fighting, which reportedly lasted several hours. Houses were burned down and several NGOs offices ransacked. Peacekeepers from the United Nations MINUSCA force (Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic) have been deployed to the area.
These clashes broke out just one day after the government of the Central African Republic (CAR) signed an "immediate ceasefire" agreement with 13 rebel groups at a meeting in Rome on June 19. Under the accord, rebel groups will be given political representation in the country's parliament in exchange for the cessation of violent attacks and blockades. Rebel soldiers will also be integrated into the CAR's armed forces. The ceasefire was mediated by the Roman Catholic Sant Egidio peace group.
Religious conflicts have ravaged the CAR since December 2013. Bangui especially has been gripped by deadly clashes between the Christian Anti-Balaka and Muslim FPRC militias. The conflict has led to hundreds of deaths, created almost 1 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), and pushed more than 500,000 people to seek refuge in the neighboring countries of Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Chad.
Many Western governments advise against travel to the CAR due to these and other security concerns. Travel should only be considered with proper security protocols in place.
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