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28 killed in CAR clashes

The fighting in Mbres displaced hundreds of people from the town.

Rwanda soldier from the African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA), gestures as he patrols on 22 January, 2014 in the Pk 13 district, north of Bangui, after after an attack by anti-Balaka fighters. Picture: AFP.

DAKAR - At least 28 people, including a Red Cross volunteer, have been killed in clashes between Muslim rebels and Christian militia in Central African Republic (CAR), a senior official with the humanitarian organisation said on Thursday.

The fighting in Mbres began on Tuesday and displaced hundreds of people from the town. Mbres lies on the fault line between the country's Christian-dominated south and the northern regions controlled by Muslim Seleka rebels who briefly seized power last year.

The clashes came just three days after Muslim rebels and members of the 'anti-balaka' Christian militia took part in a peace ceremony in the region sponsored by the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSCA.

"Twenty-eight people have been killed in Mbres. Most of them are villagers," said Antoine Mbao Bogo, president of the Red Cross in Central African Republic. "I can also confirm the death of one of our volunteers, killed outside his home."

Captain Ahmat Nejad, spokesman for the Union for Peace in Central Africa Republic (UPC), a faction of the Seleka, said the fighting erupted after Christian militia had decapitated a trader and his brother on Tuesday.

When UPC fighters went to investigate, militia members fired on them, Nejad said. He said that more than 20 anti-balaka were killed in the fighting, while just one UPC fighter was killed.

An anti-balaka spokesman denied that the group had sent fighters to the town and said the clashes had taken place between villagers and the UPC.

Mbres' pastor Abel Djon Kotta said that he was with hundreds of inhabitants seeking refuge in the bush some 5 km away. "We can still hear shooting in the town," he said.