BANGUI (Reuters) - A Muslim man was killed on the edge of a Christian-besieged enclave in the Central African Republic’s capital on Tuesday, a day after Pope Francis visited the area calling for peace and tolerance, community leaders and a human rights group said.
Under intense security, Francis entered PK5, a Muslim enclave cut off from the rest of Bangui by Christian militias for months, and visited its central mosque, wrapping up a three-nation tour of Africa on Monday.
In a speech there he said Central Africans “must say no to hatred, to revenge and to violence” and his visit immediately prompted some Muslims to venture through the tense no-man’s land surrounding the enclave.
“This morning there was a Muslim who wanted to head out of the enclave. He was intercepted. His body was carried to the mosque,” said Ibrahim Hassan Frede, spokesman for the Coordination of Central African Muslim Associations.
The body was not brought to the mosque Pope Francis visited.
The killing was confirmed by a second community leader, who said there had not been any acts of reprisal following the incident, as well as by a researcher for Human Rights Watch (HRW).
“On the heels of the pope’s visit, what we’ve just seen at the mosque is a lot of anger. They think this is a provocation,” said Lewis Mudge, Africa researcher with HRW. “I think we’re still in a situation that could spiral out of control.”
Central African Republic descended into chaos in early 2013 when mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in the majority Christian country, sparking reprisals from Christian militias. Leaders from both sides say the hatred has been manipulated for political gain.
Thousands of people have been killed and around a million have been displaced by the violence, which has divided the impoverished former French colony along religious lines, leading to de facto partition.
PK5, home to the majority of Bangui’s Muslims who have not fled north, has become the epicentre of inter-religious violence in the city.
Human Rights Watch has documented at least 100 killings in and around the enclave since violence re-erupted in late September.
Reporting by Joe Bavier; Editing by Mark Heinrich