BANGUI (Reuters) - Three hostages seized in Central African Republic this week were killed and three more seized later by another group were killed as well, apparently in retaliation, a government spokesman said on Tuesday.
Three officials from the mostly Muslim Seleka alliance were attacked while driving through a neighbourhood controlled by the rival militia on Monday.
Later the same day, three young Christians working in a Muslim enclave of the capital, Bangui, called PK5, were abducted in an apparent act of revenge, residents said.
The twin incidents risk derailing talks aimed at restoring order in the tumultuous country, where the former colonial power France and other international allies are pushing for elections this year. The Seleka members had been participating in the talks, convened by the interim president, Catherine Samba-Panza.
Security minister and government spokesman Dominique Said Paguindj said all six hostages had been killed. So had another person whose identity was unclear.
“Seven people are dead since yesterday, including the Seleka officials and the young people from Lakouanga,” he told Reuters. He did not comment on the identity of the killers.
Sectarian violence erupted in Central African Republic in early 2013, when Seleka rebels briefly seized power in the majority Muslim country, sparking reprisal attacks from the so-called anti-balaka militia. French and U.N. peacekeeping forces have failed to restore order.
On Tuesday, hundreds of young people erected barricades made of lead pipes and wooden planks in the second district of Bangui to protest the Christian men’s abduction. They were later dispersed by security forces.
Tensions have been running high in the capital since late September, when a Muslim man was murdered, setting off a fresh explosion of reprisal attacks that killed 77 people.
Political sources in Central African Republic said that the assassination of the Seleka members was surprising, since they belonged to a moderate faction known as Union for Peace in Central Africa (UPC), composed mostly of ethnic Peuhls.
The missing men included the UPC’s spokesman, Ahmat Nejad, and its secretary-general, Ahssan Bouba. The abductions come just days after anti-balaka militiamen briefly seized a senior figure in the transitional government outside Bangui.
Reporting by Crispin Dembassa-Kette; Writing by Emma Farge; Editing by Larry King