Militias renew attacks in Central African town, kill peacekeeper

DAKAR (Reuters) - Christian militias in Central African Republic have launched several attacks in the town of Bangassou in recent days, attempting to seize a cathedral housing displaced Muslims and killing a Moroccan peacekeeper, the United Nations said on Sunday.

The incidents, including one on Sunday, came after attacks on the same diamond-mining town in May that killed at least 115 people and point to the inability of U.N. peacekeepers to contain violence in a country where government control barely extends outside the capital.
"The attack took place as the peacekeepers from the Moroccan contingent were escorting water trucks filling up in the river in order to meet the humanitarian needs of the town," Vladimir Monteiro, spokesman for the 13,000-strong U.N. mission (MINUSCA), said of the Sunday incident.
Three others were injured, he added, in an attack he attributed to anti-balaka fighters drawn from the country's Christian majority.
Fighters from the same group launched a foiled attack on Friday on the town's cathedral that is housing hundreds of displaced Muslims who have been sheltering there since the May killings, Monteiro said.
Like some 500,000 others displaced in the country, many of those inside the cathedral have nowhere to return to since their homes were destroyed in the May killings.
Thousands have died in the ethnic and religious conflict that broke out when mainly Muslim Seleka rebels ousted President Francois Bozize in 2013, provoking a backlash from Christian anti-balaka militias.
The latest incidents this weekend have prompted some 14 humanitarian organizations to suspend their activities in the town, 700 km (435 miles) east of Bangui on the Congolese border, a spokeswoman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs told Reuters.
An official at French medical charity Medicins Sans Frontieres, which operates the local hospital, confirmed fresh shootings on Sunday. But she said the charity remained present.
Violence has escalated since former colonial power France ended its peacekeeping mission in the country last year that once had as many as 2,000 soldiers. It continues despite a peace deal signed between the government and rival factions in Rome last month.

(Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Peter Cooney)