Christians and Muslims murdered in sectarian violence in Central Africa

CAR has been beset by violence since the majority-Muslim Séléka drove out President Francois Bozizé in a coup in March 2013.Reuters

Christians in Central African Republic have been murdered in revenge for an attack on Muslim rebels.

At least seven people have been killed this week in fights between Muslims and Christians.

Three Muslim official were taken hostage and killed. Three Christians were then taken in a revenge attack in the capital Bangui and also killed, according to Reuters.

A seventh person has also been killed, adding to the violence which threatens talks convened by President Catherine Samba-Panza intended to help restore order. The international community is lobbying for the republic to hold elections this year. 

Government spokesman Dominique Said Paguindj told Reuters: "Seven people are dead since yesterday, including the Seleka officials and the young people from Lakouanga." 

The violence dates from 2013 when Seleka rebels seized power for a brief period in the majority Muslim country, a former French colony.

The latest killings began at the end of September when a Muslim man was murdered. Dozens of people have died in revenge attacks.

The Catholic Herald said the killings risk jeopardising the peace talks. 

It comes as the Vatican prepares for Pope Francis at the end of November. He will also visit Kenya and Uganda. It is hoped his visit might further the cause of peace in the troubled nation. While there he will meet Muslims in the central mosque.

Imam Omar Kobine Layama, president of the Islamic Council said in an interview with Catholic News Service that Muslim leaders had asked Pope Francis to call on rebel groups to give up their weapons.

"The Holy Father has already done a great deal to help all Central Africans, whether they're Catholics, Muslims, Protestants or animists," he said. "This will be, first and foremost, an occasion for prayer. But it will also allow us to present our Muslim community to the world, highlighting its anxieties and fears."