The headquarters of the small regional peacekeeping mission told CNN that the second-in-command of Seleka had given the militia permission to attack the compound. The mission has sent reinforcements in defensive positions around the church to protect civilians.
A CNN team in the vicinity could hear sustained gunfire and rocket-propelled nike free run 2 grenade fire that appeared to be directed at the church compound.
There is no word yet of any casualties or damage suffered.
Speaking to CNN before reports of the death of Seleka’s commander emerged, Zabari said that it was believed there were armed elements in the compound but that unless those inside moved against them, they wouldn’t attack it.
Power, the U.S. envoy, said the sectarian tension that has made the tens of thousands of Christians seek refuge in the church compound in Bossangoa, while their Muslim neighbors shelter in a mosque nearby, was a tragic result of the coup.
“Extremists on both sides, in an environment of lawlessness and an environment of state failure, have taken advantage of that vacuum and nike free run women stoked animosities,” she said.
The U.S. State Department said the United States was “appalled by today’s reports of the murder of innocent women and children outside of Bangui” and was working with its international partners to find the best way to stabilize the situation.
“This horrifying account is the latest in a string of reports that illustrate the deteriorating humanitarian and security situation in the Central African Republic that could lead to an escalation in violence and further atrocities,” the State Department statement said.
An unknown number of people have been killed in remote rural areas too risky to access. United Nations officials have warned that the violence between the Christian majority and Muslim minority now in power could lead to genocide.
More than 400,000 people — nearly 10% of the population — have been internally displaced, according to the United Nations.
“They are hiding in the bush without shelter, food, or drinking water, air max 1 exposed to the weather and mosquitoes that carry malaria, the leading cause of death in the country,” Doctors Without Borders said in a statement. The group has operated in the country for years and is helping dispatch mobile units to take care of the wounded.
An African Union force is already in the nation, but rights group say it’s not enough to halt the escalating violence.
Last month, France pledged to send about 1,000 more troops to add to the 400 already there. The troops currently there are deployed to protect French nationals and help secure the airport in the capital, France said.
Sources in the African Union mission to the Central African Republic said Wednesday that more French troops are on their way to the nation.
France’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gerard Araud, who holds the rotating Nike Zoom Kobe presidency of the U.N. Security Council, welcomed the body’s decision to intervene in what he said was a “forgotten crisis.”
The United Nations has suggested its peacekeeping force could eventually augment the African-led mission.
Bozize fled the country after the coup led by rebel leader Michel Djotodia.