Bangui(Central African Republic): Dozens of young men stood waiting for storm clouds to pass, as wind stirred up swirls of red dust on the largely deserted street in Central African Republic`s capital.
Through the drizzle, they spotted a man in a flowing white robe traditionally worn by Muslims, hand-in-hand with his adolescent son.
The style of dress was enough to confirm that this was their enemy.
Hungry for revenge, the crowd descended upon the pair. The man`s terrified son broke away, and fled on foot, abandoning his father as the knife-wielding mob clutched the middle-aged man.
Muslim rebels known as Seleka overthrew the government of this majority Christian nation nine months ago, sparking mounting sectarian violence that prompted former colonizer France last week to deploy troops to Bangui in an effort to stop the bloodshed.
In a city where more than 400 people died last week in two days of tit-for-tat violence between Christians and Muslims, it was clear today there is still enough pent-up rage left that a crowd will try to kill a man on sight.
The angry mob insisted their victim served as a general in the rebel movement accused of carrying out atrocities against the nation`s Christian population, including tying victims together and throwing them off bridges to drown.
"Seleka! Seleka! Seleka!" screamed the men as they encircled the Muslim man in a tornado of anger.
In this case, French forces intervened just in time, firing into the air as a warning. "I am a merchant! I am a merchant!," the man cried as the French pulled him away, his back covered in dirt and his gown ripped off. His tearful son came back, his white shirt covered in blood, and the French ferried them to safety.
Other Muslims were not as fortunate. In the Benzvi neighborhood, a mob descended upon two ex-Seleka leaders leaving their home today afternoon. One got away. The crowd took up the only weapons they had against the other, witnesses said.
"People picked up rocks from the ground and stoned him to death," said Junior Dagdag, 28, pointing to the pool of blood and stones in the middle of the road, where the victim`s car burned and smoke plumed into the sky.
"Some brought his body to the hospital while others set his car on fire."