Gunmen attack Muslims fleeing CAR kill 22 3 kids
BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) -- Gunmen wielding machetes attacked Muslims fleeing sectarian violence in the Central African Republic, killing 22 people and leaving survivors with gashes spurting blood, Save the Children said Sunday. Three children are among the dead.
Spokesman Mike McCusker said doctors described gory scenes and harrowing accounts after gunmen ambushed a convoy of refugees, firing a rocket grenade to halt the vehicles and then attacking with firearms and machetes.
"Our doctor said there was bloody everywhere, just pouring out of people like tap water," McCusker told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
Friday's attack took place in the remote northwest of the country outside the town of Bouar and shows African and French peacekeepers are not reaching remote areas where violence goes unreported, said the British charity's country director Robert Lankenau.
Life remains precarious in the "still fraught and highly dangerous" situation, he said.
"An incident of this magnitude has only come to the forefront because of our internal contacts at the hospital," McCusker said. "Maybe a lot of these stories are not being reported."
Central African Republic has a history of coups and dictatorship. More than 1,000 people have died since December alone and nearly 1 million have been forced from their homes since a rebel leader seized power last year. Michel Djotodia stepped down a week ago as international criticism mounted over his inability to halt killings some warn could explode into genocide.
A transitional national council is to vote Monday to choose a new interim president from among 24 candidates. But there are fears that whatever choice they make could further ignite violence that has pitted rival tribes and Christians against Muslims.
McCusker said many lives were saved because Save the Children has been working at the hospital, providing drugs and other medical supplies, and local staff alerted them to Friday's carnage. Four surgeons quickly set up an operating room where they worked to save the most critically injured, including children.
He said he had difficulty getting news in Bangui, the capital, from doctors at the scene. "The (cellphone) network is down, email isn't working but somehow one of our doctors was able to make a Skype call," using voice-over-internet-protocol, he said.
Faul reported from Johannesburg.