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Priest and deacon in Africa terrorised by Islamist rebels

A Sacred Heart Fathers’ mission station in the Central African Republic has been attacked by Islamist rebels.

Sources in the country told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need that Italian missionary Fr Beniamino Gusmeroli (above) and locally born Deacon Martial Mengue were threatened on Friday by five armed men with Kalashnikovs, who tied up the clerics and gagged them with adhesive tape.

The armed men, who were believed to be Sudanese, ransacked the rooms of the mission station, in Bouar in the north of the country, taking money, cameras, computers and other items.

The rebels took Deacon Mengue as a hostage, but released him some hours later.

Noting the deterioration in the situation in the country, Fr Piero Trameri, mission procurator of the Sacred Heart Fathers, pleaded for the ‘speedy and determined intervention of the international community.’

Sources in the country said that mission stations and church-owned buildings are often targeted by the rebels.

Italian Carmelite priest, Fr Aurelio Gazzera, who works in Bozoum, said that he hopes that the international community will react to the latest attack.

“Central Africa is one of the subjects presently under discussion at the UN General Assembly,” he said. “We hope that it will bring concrete results, because the situation is continuing to deteriorate. As well as the fighting that took place in recent weeks in Bossangoa and drove 30,000 people to flight, last week the Séléka rebels killed two people and burned down 206 houses in the village of Herba, which lies 70 kilometres from the road to Bocaranga.”

Although the Séléka rebel alliance was officially disbanded on September 13 by President Djotodia, there are still about 25,000 Séléka rebels in the country.

In the past two weeks, clashes between Séléka and other armed groups in Ouham Pende Prefecture have resulted in more than 170,000 displaced people.

According to the United Nations, 400,000 of the Central African Republic’s population of 5 million have fled their homes.

By Eva-Maria Kolmann and John Newton



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