Bangui’s Inferno

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Sparked in March 2013 by the ouster of longtime President François Bozizé, communal violence in the Central African Republic (CAR) continues to rage, despite escalating international peacekeeping efforts and a newly inaugurated interim president. At least 2,000 people have died so far; according to the United Nations, more than 1,000 people have been killed in the past two months alone. In his FP dispatch, "Riptide," Peter Bouckaert, the emergencies director of Human Rights Watch, reports from the ground in Bangui amid the chaos and the fighting: "The Seleka, a predominately Muslim group of fighters that seized Bangui, the capital, and toppled the CAR's government in early 2013, has lost strength and some ground, though the group continues to terrorize wherever possible. In response, Christian forces known as anti-balaka ("machete" in Sango, the local language) have stepped up attacks against Muslim civilians in places where the Seleka fighters no longer hold the sway they did just a few months ago." And the toll of these attacks are mounting. After visiting the Bangui morgue, Bouckaert writes that the death records "read like a chapter out of Dante's Inferno, page after page of people being killed by machetes, torture, lynching, shooting, explosions, and burning."

Photojournalist Marcus Bleasdale, currently in CAR with Bouckaert, visually documented the ongoing, brutal violence.

Above: On Jan. 22, Christian children living close to the PK13 quarter, a neighborhood located on the outskirts of Bangui, are seen with anti-balaka looters who are burning the homes of the Muslims.

Marcus Bleasdale/VII

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A Christian market worker in Bangui is attacked by Muslims, angry after one member of their community was killed and another gravely injured, on Jan. 23. This group attempted to lynch the first non-Muslim they could find, but he escaped.

Marcus Bleasdale/VII

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Mohammed, a 20-year-old Muslim, was killed by a grenade lobbed by anti-balaka forces in the PK12 quarter of Bangui on Jan. 23. He had gone to the outskirts of the quarter to search for food. During the preparations for his burial, the mosque was attacked by anti-balaka and everyone was forced to flee.

Marcus Bleasdale/VII

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A funeral is held for Regina Yapoutou, a 24-year-old woman from Birlo on Jan. 26. Yapoutou became sick while living in the bush, hiding from Seleka fighters for nine months. After she returned home, her condition worsened, and because she didn't have access to medication, she passed away.

Marcus Bleasdale/VII

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The wife of Nana Abdul Karim, a 34-year-old father of eight, screams and faints on Jan. 23 after learning that her husband has been killed. Karim was shot by French soldiers while buying breakfast for his children. The soldiers claim that he fired at them with a hunting rifle.

Marcus Bleasdale/VII

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Anti-balaka forces destroy property in a Muslim community in CAR on Jan. 23.

Marcus Bleasdale/VII

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Civilians living close to the Seleka Camp Kasai celebrate on Jan. 28 as the Muslim militia is removed from a nearby government military base that it had occupied for the last nine months.

Marcus Bleasdale/VII

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On Jan. 23, a young man runs through the looted and burning homes of Muslims in the PK13 quarter, located on the outskirts of Bangui.

Marcus Bleasdale/VII

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An anti-balaka fighter sits on the ground in Bangui on Jan. 23, after being slashed by a machete. He remained under the care of French soldiers until the Red Cross was able to evacuate him. The day after this image was taken, in the same neighborhood, anti-balaka killed a Seleka fighter who had left his encampment in search of food.

Marcus Bleasdale/VII

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French soldiers pass the body of a Muslim man killed, then mutilated, in the streets of Bangui's Combatan quarter, on Jan. 29.

Marcus Bleasdale/VII

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Civilians in the Combatant quarter watch the mutilation of a Muslim man on Jan. 29. French soldiers arrived too late to assist.

Marcus Bleasdale/VII

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Rwandan troops move into PK13 in an attempt to stop looting by Christian members of the community, on Jan. 23. They engaged by force and cleared the area.

Marcus Bleasdale/VII 

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