International peacekeepers in the capital of the Central African Republic have started to disarm Christian militants accused of committing atrocities against the country’s Muslims.
On Saturday, some 250 peacekeepers and policemen went door-to-door to seize weapons from the militants in Bangui’s Boy Rabe neighbourhood, the base of the militias whose violent attacks have driven most of the Muslims from the city.
Automatic weapons, grenades and a large amount of munitions were captured and at least a dozen men were arrested, according to Ghislain Gresenguet, the attorney general.
“All people who were found to have weapons in their homes have been identified and will be handed over to the police,” said a peacekeeper from the African Union mission, officially known for its French acronym MISCA — Mission internationale de soutien à la Centrafrique sous conduite africaine.
The massive search operation follows warnings of a growing campaign of ethnic cleansing of the Muslim minority by Christian militias.
The escalation in the militias’ brutal attacks has forced many Muslims to flee the country.
The United Nations refugee agency says a colossal human tragedy is taking place in the African Republic.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said in a statement on Thursday that he had witnessed “a humanitarian catastrophe of unspeakable proportions” during his recent visit to the African country.
“Massive ethno-religious cleansing is continuing. Shocking barbarity, brutality and inhumanity have characterized this violence,” Guterres added.
He went on to say that the new government in Bangui is not fully capable of protecting its citizens against “massive ethno-religious cleansing.”
Last week, Human Rights Watch called for immediate action to stop the pogrom of Muslims in the CAR, saying the killings have imperiled their future in the country.