20 killed as militias clash in Central Africa


File: Muslims carry the bodies of three men belonging to the Fulani herdsmen People, killed following the assassination of a Central African officer, on October 7, 2016 in Bangui.

BANGUI - At least 20 people were killed this week as fighting erupted between armed militias in a uranium-rich region of the Central African Republic, a military source said Thursday.

Most of the victims were civilians caught up in battles between Christian anti-balaka (anti-machete) militiamen and fighters from the mainly Muslim Seleka in and around the southeastern town of Bakouma, the source said.

The final death toll from the violence, which erupted at the start of the week, could be even higher as clashes were continuing, the source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

One of the world's poorest nations, the Central African Republic has been struggling to recover from a three-year civil war between the Muslim and Christian militias that started in 2013.

READ: Central African Republic stability still fragile

President Faustin-Archange Touadera took office in March 2016 with a mandate to lead a transition to peace but much of the country remains under the control of armed groups.

Bakouma boasts large uranium deposits and the military source said the violence there was "very worrying".

Troops from the UN peacekeeping mission known as MINUSCA have been unable to access the town, Vladimir Monteiro, a spokesman for the mission, said on Wednesday.

The uranium deposits were bought by Canadian company UraMin in 2007 from French energy giant Areva which suspended activities in the region in 2012.