At least 15 people were killed after an attack on a church in a predominantly Muslim neighborhood in the Central African Republic's capital city of Bangui on Tuesday.
According to Reuters, unidentified gunmen launched an attack with gunfire and grenades on the Notre Dame de Fatima church in the PK5 neighborhood during the morning service. Some of the parishioners were able to escape after the police bore a hole in the church wall.
"Filled with panic, some Christians began to flee until bullets and grenades began to fall in the parish grounds, trapping those who remained in the compound," Moses Aliou, a priest at the church, told Reuters.
A morgue official noted that nine of the dead victims were sent to Bangui's Community Hospital. The aid agency Doctors Without Borders reported that six people had died at other hospitals, where the group operates. The hospitals are also treating at least 60 wounded people, according to the group.
The Red Cross in the CAR has reported that at least 16 people were killed and 99 were injured, according to French international radio station RFI.
Among those who were killed was a priest identified as Albert Toungoumale Baba, according to Walter Brad Mazangue, who serves as the Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Bangui.
The priest's body was placed on a makeshift stretcher and carried by a crowd of protesters to the presidential palace, a witness told Reuters.
A spokesperson for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the country stated that the incident occurred after the arrest of a suspected member of a rebel group. The arrest reportedly led to a clash between the army and the rebels.
The attack on Tuesday occurred just a month after 21 people were killed on the border of the neighborhood after clashes broke out during a joint mission by U.N. peacekeepers and local security forces.
The clashes were blamed on the U.N. peacekeepers for firing on the residents. Demonstrators who opposed the peacekeeping operations reportedly carried the bodies of the victims to the gates of the peacekeeping mission, called MINUSCA.
CAR has been facing ethnic and religious conflict since 2013, when the predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels ousted President Francois Bozize.
The Anti-balaka militia, composed mainly of Christians, was established in an effort to fight against the rebels. In PK5, many Muslim groups have formed, claiming to defend the Muslim civilians against the efforts to expel them from the community.
An attack took place at the same church in 2014, resulting in the death of a priest and some parishioners.