Two Christians were kidnapped on January 19 near Bangui in the Central African Republic by anti-balaka militiamen who demanded the release of their imprisoned leader.
The anti-balakas are Christian vigilantes who are violently pursuing the remnants of the disbanded Seleka coalition. The Seleka coalition was the previous ruling coalition in the Central African Republic and was responsible for the wave of violence that targeted mostly Christians from March 2013 to early 2014. They were formally disbanded when a new president was elected last year but the violence continued as former members carried out attacks, and the anti-balakas kept up their retaliations.
The two victims were identified only as Gustave, a worker at CODIS, and French national Claudia Priest.
CODIS is a diocesan organisation that is dedicated to providing health care and education in the CAR, while Claudia Priest heads a charitable organisation and is a frequent traveller to the CAR.
According to the World Watch Monitor, Gustave and Priest were returning to Bangui from a trip to Damara. They arrived at a church in the city’s 4th district at 8 a.m on January 19 but were waylaid by four armed men in the entrance of the church. The pair, together with another congregation member identified only as Elkana, were forced to exit the vehicle at gunpoint.
The militiamen then took away their personal possessions including cellphones and cash. The militiamen confiscated their vehicle, which was loaded with medicine.
Elkana managed to extricate himself from the situation and escaped. Gustave and Priest were kidnapped and taken to anti-Balaka stronghold Boy Rab.
The World Watch Monitor said that the militiamen demanded the release of Rodrigue Ngaibona, an anti-Balaka militia leader that was arrested by United Nations peacekeepers on January 18.
Two members of the Christians and Muslims Platform in the CAR, Bangui Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga and Evangelical Alliance President and Rev. Nicolas Guérékoyamé Gbangou, are spearheading negotiations for the victims’ release.
The French government has condemned the kidnapping, calling it “an act contrary to humanitarian law.”
Source: Christian Today
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