BANGUI, Central African Republic — African peacekeepers fired into the air Thursday in Central African Republic's chaotic capital, trying to disperse a huge mob bent on hunting down and killing Muslims taking refuge in a church compound.
The unrest in Bangui underscored the rage and uncertainty that remains in the capital of the Central African Republic despite the arrival of 1,600 French soldiers and patrols by regional African peacekeepers. The two forces are seeking to stabilize this impoverished, now lawless, country after more than 500 people were killed last week in sectarian bloodshed.
In March, an alliance of mostly Muslim rebels from the north tossed out the country's Christian president in a coup that brought President Michel Djotodia to power. Rage has mounted recently against the men who took part in that coup, known as Seleka rebels, who have also been accused of carrying out scores of attacks on civilians since then.
On Thursday, several thousand people stood by as a group of young men lobbing huge rocks tried to break into the compound of the Saint-Jacques Church in Bangui, looking for an ex-rebel general they believed to be inside.
The crowd began chanting "Kill him! Kill him!" as others placed a large felled tree in front of the gate to prevent people from escaping from the refugee.