Soldiers from France and the African Union went door-to-door Saturday in an operation aimed at disarming local militias that have been accused in a series of violent attacks on Muslims.
Leaders of the loosely affiliated Christian militias, known as the anti-balaka, insisted that the detainees be released and warned the nation's interim government that they were prepared to turn their ire against them if provoked, Voice of America said.
The CAR government and the commanders of the foreign troops have declared the anti-balaka to be their top security concern. But some Bangui residents told VOA the Muslim Seleka rebels were the real enemy.
"If you want to disarm the anti-balaka, it is better to first disarm the Seleka," said resident Ngaro Nadine. "It is the Seleka who have been massacring and killing. Now it is the anti-balaka who are strong."
The militias, which are loyal to overthrown President Francois Brozize, have used their strength to carry out a wave of looting and attacks on Muslim civilians.
VOA said the anti-balaka have insisted that their fighters be housed and paid while waiting for a disarmament process to take place. The foreign troops, however, have rejected the idea.