World News

Death toll in Central African town could rise to 100 - mayor

BANGUI (Reuters) - As many as 100 people may have been killed in a day of clashes between rival factions in the Central African Republic diamond-mining town of Bria, the mayor said on Wednesday.

“The death toll will certainly rise. For now it’s an estimate and it could be up to 100 dead,” said mayor Maurice Belikoussou by telephone. “There are still dead lying in the neighbourhoods, in the road and in the bush,” he added.

Calm returned to the town on Wednesday and aid workers are collecting bodies, a local Red Cross official said.

Bria, the capital of the northeastern prefecture of Haute-Kotto, is coveted by militias for its surrounding diamond mines. At least 22 people were killed in clashes there last month, the United Nations said, as part of a broader escalation of a multi-year conflict driven by religious and ethnic rivalries.

But Tuesday’s clashes dashed hopes that a ceasefire signed between more than a dozen militias in Rome on Monday could succeed in ending a conflict that has killed thousands and displaced a fifth of the former French colony’s population of 5 million.

Fighting began in 2013 after mainly Muslim Seleka rebels ousted President Francois Bozize, provoking a backlash from Christian anti-balaka militias.

Ethnic rivalries between the minority cattle herding Fulanis and other groups have also fuelled the conflict.

Reporting by Crispin Dembassa-Kette; Writing by Emma Farge; Editing by Angus MacSwan