The head of Central African Republic’s armed forces was shot dead Tuesday and his teenage son was injured in an attack in the capital, Bangui, a family member said.
Marcel Mombeka was shot twice in his car in the PK5 neighborhood, said his sister Kevine Mombeka. The mostly Muslim enclave was visited by Pope Francis last year in an effort to urge calm in a country shaken by deadly violence between Christians and Muslims.
“Shots rang out, creating panic among the population. I fled like everyone else,” Kevine Mombeka said. “A young man then stopped me to say my older brother had been killed by Muslims.”
Marcel Mombaka’s 14-year-old son, who was in the car, was shot and was being treated at a hospital, she said. She had been in the car as well but got out before the attack.
Minister of Public Security Jean Serge Bokassa denounced what he called acts to destabilize the nation, warning “they will not go unpunished.” The United Nations peacekeeping mission condemned the attack, saying it will assist with investigations.
Central African Republic has been rocked by violence since March 2013, when a largely Muslim alliance of rebel groups overthrew President Francois Bozize. The rebel leader left power in 2014, and a deadly backlash by the Christian anti-Balaka militia group followed against Muslim civilians. Thousands were killed.
Also Tuesday, three Peul men who were grazing their flocks in Bangui were killed, as well as a young Muslim man who left PK5 to find his wife, said the director of a livestock society, Patrick Ningata Ndjita. Peuls are mostly Muslim. It was not clear whether the killings occurred after the attack on Mombeka.
While this year’s elections to replace the country’s transitional government were peaceful, concerns remain that widespread violence could explode again.