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20,000 flee latest fighting in Central African Republic

Concerns are mounting that sectarian violence is again spiraling out of control in the country, even in places that previously were spared during the conflict that began in late 2013.

BANGUI, Central African Republic — Gunmen looted humanitarian compounds as fighting gripped the Central African Republic town of Bria while more than 20,000 people have fled to a nearby U.N. peacekeeping base, authorities said Friday.

Concerns are mounting that sectarian violence is again spiraling out of control in the country, even in places that previously were spared during the conflict that began in late 2013.

At least 20 people have been killed and several dozen wounded since the unrest in Bria began on Tuesday, said U.N. mission spokesman Herve Verhoosel.

He told The Associated Press that fighting was focused on the Bria airport Friday morning between rebel groups. Meanwhile, U.N. troops intervened to stop youth from looting and burning houses in an area where most humanitarian organizations are based. More than 50 aid workers were now sheltering at the U.N. base, he said.

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Verhoosel called the situation “calm but unpredictable,” with peacekeepers deployed in key areas of town.

The U.N. mission “deeply regrets that one more time, civilians pay the highest price,” he said.

Earlier, the U.N. humanitarian agency’s chief of office for the country, Joseph Inganji, told the AP that armed groups came to humanitarian compounds in Bria and pillaged a warehouse. “There’s fighting taking place but we don’t know who’s fighting who,” he said.

Attacks also targeted places of worship and government buildings, the medical charity Doctors Without Borders said in a statement, adding that at least 44 casualties had been treated at the local hospital since Monday. “These are stirring up ethnic and religious divides.”

Bria in November was the site of fierce clashes between…

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