Seventeen people were killed in a flashpoint Muslim enclave of Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR), where a UN soldier also reportedly died.

Peacekeepers from the UN's Minusca force and Central African soldiers have since April 8 been locked in an operation to rout armed groups in Bangui's mainly Muslim PK5 neighbourhood. (April 11, 2018)
Peacekeepers from the UN's Minusca force and Central African soldiers have since April 8 been locked in an operation to rout armed groups in Bangui's mainly Muslim PK5 neighbourhood. (April 11, 2018) (AFP)

Hundreds of angry demonstrators on Wednesday laid the bodies of at least 16 people killed in clashes in Central African Republic's capital Bangui in front of the headquarters of the United Nation's mission, a Reuters witness said.

The demonstration coincides with a visit to the country, which has been mired in a cycle of ethnic and religious violence since 2013, by Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the UN's head of peacekeeping operations.

The peacekeeping mission, MINUSCA, said late on Tuesday that one Rwandan UN soldier was killed and eight were wounded in clashes with armed groups in the PK5 neighbourhood, a Muslim area of the majority Christian city.

A series of clashes began on April 1, when UN peacekeepers on patrol in PK5 came under attack and returned fire. A security sweep began in the area on Sunday, which was followed by Tuesday's bloodshed.

Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), which operates one of the main hospitals in Bangui, said it had treated more than 40 people for gunshot wounds on Tuesday. 

Inhabitants of the mainly Muslim PK5 neighbourhood deposite bodies of victims of the April 10 clashes during demonstrations in front of the headquarters of MINUSCA. (April 11, 2018)
Inhabitants of the mainly Muslim PK5 neighbourhood deposite bodies of victims of the April 10 clashes during demonstrations in front of the headquarters of MINUSCA. (April 11, 2018) (AFP)

Plagued by violence

The violence marks a fresh escalation between MINUSCA and militia groups that control most of the CAR's territory.

The CAR spiralled into bloodshed after longtime leader Francois Bozize was overthrown in 2013 by the mainly Muslim Seleka rebel alliance.

France intervened militarily to push out the Seleka alliance, but the country – one of the poorest in the world – remains plagued by violence between ex-rebels and vigilante militias.

Many armed groups are nominally organised along religious lines, but often fight for control of revenue from extortion, roadblocks or mineral resources.

The PK5 was once a Muslim rebel bastion, but is now home to several criminal groups that have taken advantage of the weakness of the state.

The UN recently threatened to dismantle all the armed groups' bases in the area unless they hand over their weapons, according to sources.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies