February 12, 2014 / 2:21 PM / in 4 years

Mass grave found in Central African Republic, U.N. warns of 'cleansing'

BANGUI (Reuters) - African Union peacekeepers on Wednesday uncovered a mass grave at a military camp in Bangui occupied by the Muslim Seleka rebels, as a top U.N. official warned Central African Republic was succumbing to “ethnic-religious cleansing”.

A Reuters witness saw four separate shallow graves containing at least a dozen bodies at the military camp in the 200 Villas neighborhood of central Bangui, where some Seleka fighters are still stationed.

Pastor Antoine Mboa Bogo, head of the local Red Cross, confirmed there was a mass grave at the camp but said his staff had not yet had time to determine the number of dead.

A Democratic Republic of the Congo soldier, part of an African peacekeeping force, patrols along a street in Bangui, February 12, 2014. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

“We need to send in a team with the proper equipment tomorrow to examine it,” he said.

On a visit to Bangui, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres called for a massive deployment of international peacekeepers to restore stability in a country gripped by violence since March, when Seleka seized power.

Months of looting, rape and murder followed, bringing international pressure that saw Seleka leader Michel Djotodia resign in January. Since then, Christian militia have carried out systematic attacks on Muslims, forcing tens of thousands of people to flee the country.

“We are witnessing a humanitarian catastrophe in Central African Republic,” Guterres told reporters. “There is an ethnic-religious cleansing taking place.”

Reporting by Serge Leger Kokpakpa; Writing by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Bate Felix

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