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Christians, Muslims Clash in Central African Republic

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One year ago, an alliance of Muslim rebel groups within Central African Republic (CAR), calling itself Seleka, launched an effort to overthrow the government. The majority of the country's population is Christian, with only 10 to 15 percent identifying as Muslim, but Seleka's campaign was successful. The rebels began by capturing small towns, and by March, they had seized the capital, Bangui. Throughout 2013, members of the Muslim Seleka groups reportedly launched waves of attacks on civilians in Christian areas, looting, raping, and and killing at will. In the past few months, Christian militias have emerged, calling themselves "anti-balaka," or anti-machete. Their actions have gone beyond self-defense, spilling into vicious reprisals against Muslim neighbors and others they view as complicit. More than a thousand people in CAR have been killed in the past month alone. Foreign soldiers form the African Union and France have quickly built up a presence, hoping to fend off a feared genocide. [39 photos]

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A Christian man chases a suspected Seleka officer in civilian clothes with a knife near the airport in Bangui, Central African Republic, on December 9, 2013. Both Christian and Muslim mobs went on lynching sprees as French Forces deployed in the capital. The Seleka man was taken into custody by French forces who fired warning shots to disperse the crowds. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
A Christian man chases a suspected Seleka officer in civilian clothes with a knife near the airport in Bangui, Central African Republic, on December 9, 2013. Both Christian and Muslim mobs went on lynching sprees as French Forces deployed in the capital. The Seleka man was taken into custody by French forces who fired warning shots to disperse the crowds. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
Seleka soldiers man a checkpoint in Boali, some 80km (50 mi) north of Bangui, Central African Republic, to let a World Food Program convoy through, on December 4, 2013. To try to put an end to sectarian violence, the UN security council passed a motion allowing French troops to deploy in the country in order to protect civilians and insure security by all necessary means. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) #
Muslim men organized in militias with machetes rough up a Christian man while checking him for weapons in the Miskine neighborhood of Bangui, on December 13, 2013. A band of about a dozen Muslim men with machetes faced off against an equally large group of Christian youths. Also in Miskine, French troops backed by a helicopter traded fire with unidentified assailants as France's Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian arrived in Bangui. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) #
Red Cross employees stand amid dozens of bodies at the morgue in Bangui, on December 8, 2013. French forces fanned out across the town Sunday, as Seleka forces kept their patrols despite an order to return to their barracks. Officials say over 1,000 have died since Christian militias attacked the capital earlier in the month. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) #
Anti-balaka Christian militia members pose for a portrait outside Central African Republic's capital Bangui, on December 15, 2013. The leader of the Christian militia says his fighters won't halt their rebellion until President Michel Djotodia is gone from power, raising the specter of a prolonged sectarian conflict in the country. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) #
Men stand around a damaged shop that has been scrawled with graffiti reading "No mosques, banned along with Muslims in our country, C.A.R.," in the Fouh neighborhood of Bangui, on December 23, 2013. The mosque that stood behind the shop was also destroyed in sectarian violence earlier in the month. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell) #
An anti-balaka militiamen, who was a former member of the Central African Armed Forces (FACA), takes part in a training session on the outskirts of Bangui, on December 17, 2013. (Ivan Lieman/AFP/Getty Images) #
Residents run for cover after hearing gunshots in the Combattant neighborhood in Bangui, on December 20, 2013. (Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images) #
Bodies lay in the streets of Bangui, on December 6 2013, a day after gun battles between Seleka soldiers and Christian militias left over 100 dead and scores wounded. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) #
An anti-balaka fighter, member of a militia opposed to the Seleka rebel group, puts a knife to his throat showing what he would do to any Seleka, on the outskirts of the Boy-Rabe neighborhood in Bangui on December 14, 2013. (Ivan Lieman/AFP/Getty Images) #
Women bare their chests in a traditional sign of placing a curse, after at least two people were injured by passing Chadian troops, during a protest outside Mpoko Airport in Bangui, on December 23, 2013. Hundreds of demonstrators gathered at the entrance to the airport Monday morning carrying signs protesting Chadian forces and expressing support for French troops and other regional African forces. At least two people were wounded as pickups of Chadian soldiers sped through the gathered crowd firing off several rounds. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell) #
A French soldier speaks to suspected Christian militia member Sincere Banyodi, 32, who lays wounded by machete blows in the Kokoro neighborhood of Bangui, on December 9, 2013. Vigilante crowds said they spotted him with grenades and turned him over to French forces. Both Christian and Muslim mobs went on lynching sprees as French Forces deployed in the capital. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) #
A resident throws a stone at the dead body of a Seleka soldier, after activists claim he was killed by the French military, on Jackson Bridge in Bangui, on December 20, 2013. (Reuters/Alain Amontchi) #
Seleka soldiers drive a military vehicle during fighting in Bangui, on December 5, 2013. (Reuters/Emmanuel Braun) #
Chadians awaiting evacuation flights settle in for the night in an airport hangar, in Bangui, on December 29, 2013. Despite multiple repatriation flights daily, hundreds of Chadians have been camped out at an airport hangar and on a section of tarmac for nearly a week. Overwhelmingly women and children, they are without regular access to food and water, and can't leave the airport for fear of being attacked by angry Christians who blame them for the country's current problems. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell) #
A Chadian woman pulls her suitcase across the tarmac as she gives up waiting for another flight to arrive and looks for a place to sleep, at the airport in Bangui, on December 29, 2013. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell) #
People gather at a camp for internally displaced persons set up amid old aircraft near the airport in Bangui, on December 29, 2013. Desperate Chadian refugees who fled chaos in the Central African Republic on Sunday recounted the horror they went through when they were attacked and threatened by angry mobs as the country became engulfed in sectarian violence. (Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images) #
Boys play as a young man sleeps in the cockpit of an airplane being used as shelter, in a makeshift camp housing tens of thousands displaced by violence at Mpoko Airport in Bangui, on December 21, 2013. Fresh violence on Friday led to new arrivals in the crowded camp, where residents where already clearing brush for new settlements. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell) #
A camp for internally displaced persons near the airport in Bangui, on December 29, 2013. (Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images) #
People walk on the tarmac to reach the refugee camp, close to the airport of Bangui, on December 14, 2013. UN chief Ban Ki-moon and local authorities pleaded for an end to the carnage between Christian and Muslims that has left hundreds dead. (Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images) #
A boy looks out the broken window of a plane serving as shelter, in a makeshift camp at Mpoko Airport in Bangui, on December 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell) #
Multinational Force of Central Africa (FOMAC) soldiers search residents and their car along l'avenue Boganda in Bangui, on December 21, 2013. (Reuters/Alain Amontchi) #
An African Union peacekeeper carries an elderly Cameroonian woman, too frail to walk, to a military vehicle shuttling Cameroonian citizens to the airport for an evacuation flight, in Bangui, on December 27, 2013. Military escorts shuttled nationals of Chad and Cameroon to the airport Friday to board evacuation flights, as French troops stepped in to help Muslims fleeing north by road make it safely through hostile areas. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell) #
French soldiers protect a truck of fleeing Muslims after it broke down and was surrounded by hundreds of hostile Christian residents, including several anti-balaka militiamen, in the Gobongo neighborhood of Bangui, on December 27, 2013. In recent days, passenger vehicles carrying panicked Muslims toward the northern edge of town have repeatedly come under attack in this area, with some passengers executed and others robbed. French troops stepped in Friday to help some Muslims fleeing north by road make it safely through hostile areas, while African Union escorts shuttled nationals of Chad and Cameroon to the airport to board evacuation flights. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell) #
Men hurl rocks at and chase after a truck carrying fleeing Muslims, as it is escorted by French armored personnel carriers, through the Gobongo neighborhood of Bangui, on December 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell) #
Chadian civilians flee Bangui in the back of trucks on December 28, 2013. Hundreds more Chadian civilians prepared today to flee to their home country after facing repeated attacks and threats from majority Christians in the strife-torn Central African Republic. (Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images) #
A boy, scarred from machete strikes, waits in his room at the pediatric hospital in Bangui, on December 18, 2013. (Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images) #
Red Cross workers prepare the ground to bury the dead in Bangui, on December 27, 2013. Red Cross workers recently recovered 44 bodies from the streets of Bangui. (Reuters/Andreea Campeanu) #
French troops stand at the airport runway in Bangui, on December 10, 2013. President Francois Hollande flew into Central African Republic hours after two French soldiers were killed in fighting and praised his troops for tackling "horrendous violence" against women and children and helping avert a slide into civil war. (Reuters/Emmanuel Braun) #
A young man reacts after his friend was badly injured by passing Chadian troops, during a protest outside Mpoko Airport in Bangui, on December 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell) #
A French Puma helicopter flies over Bangui, on December 14, 2013. France sent troops into its ex-colony to bolster an African peacekeeping force that has struggled to contain increasing violence, including sectarian clashes between Christians and Muslims. (Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images) #
French soldiers evacuate young men wounded by passing Chadian troops during a protest outside Mpoko Airport in Bangui,on December 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell) #
A Chadian soldier, part of an African peacekeeping force, smokes a cigarette as he stands guard over Chadians waiting for evacuation flights, at the airport in Bangui, on December 29, 2013. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell) #
A French soldier screams at a mob of Christians attacking suspected Seleka members before firing warning shots near the airport in Bangui, on December 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) #
A man wounded in fighting between anti-balaka and ex-Seleka troops sits on the floor in the Community Hospital in Bangui, on December 20, 2013. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) #
A man lies dead at a checkpoint wearing lucky charms around his waist following a shootout with Congolese peacekeepers, in Bangui, on December 20, 2013. Three bodies lay baking in the sun at the checkpoint Friday after being shot by Congolese peacekeepers, who said the men had attacked them. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) #
FOMAC troops, regional peacekeepers, fire their guns as they evacuate Muslim clerics from the St. Jacques Church in Bangui, on December 12, 2013. An angry crowd had gathered outside the church following rumors that a Seleka general was inside. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) #
Andre Poukou Gabriel, a member of the anti-balaka Christian militia, walks away from French soldiers, after being questioned and having his machete confiscated, in the Gobango neighborhood of Bangui, on December 20, 2013. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell) #
A Christian youth squats inside a burnt out car in Bangui, after fighting took place, on December 10, 2013. (Reuters/Emmanuel Braun) #
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