- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 6, 2014

The west of Central African Republic has been “cleansed” of most Muslims as largely-Christian “anti-balaka” militias step up force in the region, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said Thursday.

CAR has descended into religious violence ever since Seleka, a coalition of mostly Muslim northern rebels, overthrew François Bozizé and seized power a year ago, Reuters reported. The violence escalated in December when anti-balaka groups stepped up reprisal attacks on civilians.

“Since early December we have effectively witnessed a ‘cleansing’ of the majority of the Muslim population in western CAR,” Mr. Guterres said at a U.N. Security Council meeting.

“Tens of thousands of them (Muslims) have left the country, the second refugee outflow of the current crisis, and most of those remaining are under permanent threat,” he added. “Just last week, there were about 15,000 people trapped in 18 locations in western CAR, surrounded by anti-balaka elements and at very high risk of attack.”

“The demon of religious cleansing must be stopped — now,” he said.

According to Reuters, the council is considering a U.N. proposal for a nearly 12,000-strong peacekeeping force in CAR.

“The state has virtually no capacity to manage the massive array of threats it is facing,” said U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous. “There is no national army and the remnants of the police and gendarmerie lack the basic equipment and means to exercise their duties, while state administration is largely absent throughout the country.”