The Red Cross said it has collected the bodies of 281 people killed during two days of violence in the capital of the Central African Republic.
Pastor Antoine Mbao Bogo, the president of the aid organisation, said on Friday that staff found the dead before night fell and the toll was likely to rise significantly when they resumed work at the weekend.
They are slaughtering us like chicken.
“Tomorrow is going to be a monster of a day, We’re going to work tomorrow and I think we’re going to need a fourth day too,” Bogo said.
The bloodshed started on Thursday as armed Christians raided Muslim neignbourhoods in a country that has been seeing tit-for-tat violence since mainly Muslim rebels, called Seleka, seized power in March and toppled President Francois Bozize.
“They are slaughtering us like chicken,” said Donoboy, a Christian whose family remained in hiding as former rebels searched house-to-house.
French troops rumbled into their former colony on Friday, trying to stop violence in the capital and to stabilise the country.
|French ambassador discusses CAR mission|
However, French officials insisted the mission’s aims were limited to bringing a minimum of security to Bangui, where people now fear to leave their homes, and to support an African-led force.
“You have to secure, you have to disarm,” Jean-Yves Le Drian, French defence minister, told Radio France Internationale. “You have to ensure that the vandals, the bandits, the militias know they can’t use the streets of Bangui for their battles.”
The streets of Bangui were deserted on Friday morning, with the only vehicles on the road belonging to either international security forces or the rebel fighters who claim control of the government.
There was no repeat of the clashes, Le Drian said.
“Thanks to France and the United Nations who want to save the Central Africans, soon the Seleka attacks on civilians will stop. We have had enough of Seleka killing, raping and stealing,” said Abel Nguerefara, who lives on the outskirts of Bangui.
However, Joanna Mariner, part of an Amnesty International team in Bangui, said that she had reports of pillaging and killing in the third district. “The French are patrolling on the main axes, but the city isn’t yet secure,” she added.
Since 2011, France has intervened in four African countries, in Ivory Coast, on a joint mission in Libya, in Mali and now in Central African Republic.