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At least 24 Christians were killed and 32 injured when armed rebels and Muslims attacked the compound of St Joseph’s Catholic Cathedral in Bambari, Central African Republic, on Monday.
Thousands of civilians, including between 4,000 and 6,000 Christians, had taken refuge in the cathedral compound in the city almost 400 km north-east of the capital Bangui.
The Seleka rebel movement said the attack was in retaliation for a previous attack in the area by Christian militias.
According to the religious advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide, armed fighters entered the grounds of the cathedral and began shooting indiscriminately.
In addition to causing deaths and injuries, the assailants razed 20 buildings, burnt three cars belonging to the bishop and carried away two others, along with every motorcycle in the compound.
Church officials criticised French troops for their perceived delay in responding to the attack; however, a French military spokesperson said the troops had positioned themselves between the armed Muslim group and the Christians within an hour of the start of the attack.