At least 17 killed and 27 missing after attack on Bangui church sheltering the displaced

Briefing Notes, 30 May 2014

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 30 May 2014, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

In the Central African Republic, an attack in Bangui on Wednesday on the Notre Dame de Fatima church has resulted in the deaths of at least 17 people and 27 civilians reportedly abducted by assailants who drove them to an unknown location.

The attackers who arrived in pick-up trucks in the early afternoon threw grenades into the church ground before opening fire on people, using small arms. Those killed during the attack include a priest. Two children and two adults also succumbed to their injuries on Thursday.

At the time of the attack, Notre Dame de Fatima was hosting 9,000 internally displaced people (IDPs), including 2,050 who moved there only a week earlier to escape from a recent rise in insecurity in nearby neighborhoods. Others had been staying there since December 2013.

UNHCR strongly condemns this attack against innocent civilians. We call again all sides of the armed conflict to protect civilians, in line with their obligations under international law. We also call on all sides of the conflict to allow for the delivery of critical humanitarian assistance and unhindered access to the people in need of protection and aid.

Insecurity in the CAR's capital has increased drastically since last weekend. On Sunday 25 May, three people were killed in the PK5 neighborhood, purportedly by Anti-Balaka elements, while they were heading to an inter-communal reconciliation football match. On Monday and Tuesday, the situation remained tense and shootings were reported. On Wednesday, inter-communal hostilities culminated with the attack at Notre Dame de Fatima, which is now totally empty. The attack is among the worst on any IDP site in Bangui since the Seleka group was removed from power in January 2014.

Churches, monasteries and mosques have till now been safe havens for IDPs across CAR. In Bangui where the security situation remains tense, 32 out of 43 IDP sites are religious institutions.

Those who fled from Notre Dame de Fatima have either moved to the surrounding neighborhoods or southwards towards ten sites in Bangui and the adjacent area of Bimbo. Many fled without anything no money, no food, not even a mat to sleep on. Others had bullet wounds that need to be attended to urgently. Compounding their hardship, the overcrowded IDP sites they moved to face shortages in water, food, shelter and basic healthcare.

The second half of the month of May was also violent in other parts of CAR. In Bambari for example, in the Ouaka province, clashes erupted on May 21 and 24 between French Sangaris elements and armed civilians over the implementation of confidence-building measures and the cantonment of ex-Seleka forces.

Meanwhile, UNHCR partners have documented progressive returns in zones of the northwestern Ouham-Pende and the northern Ouham provinces. With the mixed displacement trends, the overall number of IDPs remains at 557,000 across CAR, including 132,000 in Bangui. Since December 2013, nearly 121,000 CAR refugees have fled to neighbouring countries.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Bangui, Akatrina Kitidi on mobile : +236 72 68 4828
  • In Geneva, Fatoumata Lejeune on mobile +41 79 249 34 83
• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Central African Republic: Urgent Appeal

You can help save the lives of thousands of refugees

Donate to this crisis

A Central African Refugee's Reunion With Her Sons Brings Joy and Sorrow

The violence and conflict in the Central African Republic has forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes since mid-December. Many have sought refuge in neighbouring countries, including 80,000 in Cameroon. During the trauma and confusion of flight, families often become separated. They face many dangers on the way to safety, and their journey can take many weeks. Ramatou, a 45-year-old mother of 11 children, was separated from three of her sons and her husband when militiamen attacked her village in January. She ran in one direction with eight children and eventually made it to Cameroon with the help of African Union peace-keepers. Her husband and three sons ran in a different direction and endured many ordeals in the bush, becoming separated again. Earlier this month, Ramatou was reunited in Cameroon's Mbile Refugee Camp with the two youngest boys. She was overjoyed, but dismayed that they were on their own. She still hopes for her husband and eldest son to turn up. Photographer Fred Noy was there at the emotional reunion.

A Central African Refugee's Reunion With Her Sons Brings Joy and Sorrow

Batalimo to Batanga and Beyond: Congolese Return Home from CAR

Over the past month, almost 6,300 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have left the Batalimo camp in the troubled Central African Republic and returned voluntarily to their homes in Equateur province. Their decision to go back is a further sign of the gravity of the situation in Central African Republic, where escalated violence since December has left hundreds of thousands internally displaced and forced almost 350,000 to flee to neighbouring countries. The refugees at Batalimo were among some 20,000 Congolese who had fled to the Central African Republic to escape inter-ethnic conflict back home. The return operation from Batalimo had been postponed several times for security and logistical reasons, but on April 10 the first convoy headed across the Oubangui River. The last arrived in the DRC on May 10. The UN refugee agency organized transportation of the refugees from Batalimo to the Central African Republic riverside town of Zinga, where they boarded boats for the crossing to Batanga or Libenge in Equateur province. In Batanga, the returnees were registered, provided with documentation and given a cash grant to help them reintegrate. They were then transported to their villages, where they will be monitored. Photographer Leonora Baumann followed one group back to the DRC.

Batalimo to Batanga and Beyond: Congolese Return Home from CAR

2014: CAR refugees attacked as they flee to Cameroon

Each week 10,000 Muslims cross into eastern Cameroon to escape the violence consuming the Central African Republic (CAR). Many new arrivals report that they have been repeatedly attacked as they fled. The anti-Balaka militiamen have blocked main roads to Cameroon, forcing people to find alternate routes through the bush. Many are walking two to three months to reach Cameroon, arriving malnourished and bearing wounds from machetes and gunshots.

UNHCR and its partners have established additional mobile clinics at entry points to provide emergency care as refugees arrive. The UN refugee agency is also supporting public health centres that have been overwhelmed by the number of refugees and their condition.

Meanwhile, UNHCR has relocated some 20,000 refugees who had been living in the open in the Garoua Bouai and Kenzou border areas, bringing them to new sites at Lolo, Mborguene, Gado and Borgop in the East and Adamwa regions.

Since the beginning of the year, Cameroon has received nearly 70,000 refugees from CAR, adding to the 92,000 who fled in earlier waves since 2004 to escape rebel groups and bandits in the north of their country.

UNHCR staff members Paul Spiegel and Michele Poletto recently travelled to eastern Cameroon and have the following photos to share from their iPhone and camera.

2014: CAR refugees attacked as they flee to Cameroon

Joint Appeal: Help Needed for Central African RefugeesPlay video

Joint Appeal: Help Needed for Central African Refugees

The UN refugee agency and its partners appealed for more donor support to cope with the continuing outflow and deteriorating condition of refugees from the Central African Republic.
UNHCR's Dr. Paul Spiegel on the Border of CAR  and CameroonPlay video

UNHCR's Dr. Paul Spiegel on the Border of CAR and Cameroon

This video was shot by one of our staff* using a mobile phone as they helped refugees who had crossed the river to safety.
Central African Republic: Torn CommunitiesPlay video

Central African Republic: Torn Communities

For more than a year, inter-communal strife has displaced tens of thousands of people in the Central African Republic. But amid the violence, efforts are being made to promote reconciliation.