Bangui: Nearly ten people, most of them civilians, died when rival militias clashed earlier this week in the centre of the strife-torn Central African Republic, a source in the African peacekeeping force said on Friday. Meanwhile, the body of 26-year-old French photojournalist Camille Lepage, who was shot dead during an assignment in the country, left the capital Bangui on a French-bound cargo plane following tributes to her at a French military base, an AFP reporter said.
The source in the African force Misca said the clashes erupted Wednesday near Dekoa between the mainly Christian "anti-balaka" force and the Seleka, a former rebel group who are mainly Muslim. "We lament the deaths of nearly 10 people and many wounded, most of them civilians," the source said.
Following the clashes, ex-Seleka members carried out reprisal attacks in villages between Dekoa and Kaga Bandoro, the source said, adding some villagers were shot dead or wounded while looting took place. In the mainly Christian town of Boda, in the south of the country, an armed man shot and killed a 12-year-old Muslim girl yesterday while also shooting and wounding a six-year-old girl and a baby, police said.
Police said the shooting occurred while a government delegation sought to mediate between Muslims and Christians who have been locked in sectarian violence that left nearly 100 dead at the end of January. Lepage`s body was due to arrive in Paris around 0500 GMT tomorrow and a diplomatic source said an autopsy will be carried out afterwards.
Central Africa`s Prime Minister Andre Nzapayeke, officers from the international peacekeeping forces and journalists paid their last respects to her during today at the French military base in Bangui. Lepage`s body was recovered by French peacekeeping troops on Tuesday evening. She had been on an assignment with members of the "anti-balaka" earlier in the week when they were ambushed by fighters linked to rival militia groups.
At least ten fighters died in the ensuing battle in the village of Gallo in the west of the former French colony.
French authorities had yesterday opened a judicial investigation into the journalist`s death while the UN Security Council condemned the killing and urged the Central African government to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.