CAR descending into religious war

Jan. 7, 2014 at 10:21 AM
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UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- Conflict in the Central African Republic is escalating into a religious war that's straining the effectiveness of international aid, a chief U.N. envoy said.

Seleka, a predominately Sunni militant coalition, toppled the central CAR government in March. A Christian militia known as anti-Balaka has since taken up arms against their Muslim rivals.

"As a result of its predominantly Muslim composition, Seleka abuses against the Christian populations in the CAR were quickly interpreted as a religious conflict pitting Muslims against Christians," U.N. Undersecretary-general for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman said in a statement Monday.

Feltman estimates lingering violence in CAR, one of the poorest nations in the world, has displaced nearly 1 million people and left 2.2 million relying on humanitarian assistance.

"Violence and insecurity has forced many to flee into the forests and out of reach of aid," he added. "Lack of funding has also constrained the response and threatens to further inhibit humanitarian operations unless funding is urgently received."

The U.N. Security Council backed a French military role to support African Union peacekeepers in CAR. Feltman said a donors' conference was planned Feb. 1 in Ethiopia to help the AU reach its full troop commitment of 6,000 soldiers.

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