Prosecutor to investigate Central African Republic

Associated Press
Uniformed men who would not reveal their allegiance drive with thousands of Muslim residents from Bangui and Mbaiki fleeing the Central African Republic capital Bangui in a mass exodus using cars, pickups, trucks, lorries and motorcycles Friday Feb. 7, 2014. Tit-for-tat violence killed more than 1,000 people in Bangui alone in a matter of days in December. An untold number have died in the weeks that followed, with most of the attacks in Bangui targeting Muslims. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
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Uniformed men who would not reveal their allegiance drive with thousands of Muslim residents from Bangui and Mbaiki fleeing the Central African Republic capital Bangui in a mass exodus using cars, pickups, trucks, lorries and motorcycles Friday Feb. 7, 2014. Tit-for-tat violence killed more than 1,000 people in Bangui alone in a matter of days in December. An untold number have died in the weeks that followed, with most of the attacks in Bangui targeting Muslims. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

AMSTERDAM (AP) — The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said Friday she has opened a preliminary investigation into potential war crimes or crimes against humanity in Central African Republic.

Fatou Bensouda said Friday the situation for civilians in the country has "gone from bad to worse" since September 2012, and she has recently received reports of "extreme brutality by various groups."

Christian and Muslim militias have been clashing in the country, which is already the subject of a previous investigation by Bensouda's office stemming from the period before 2004.

Fighting in the country has worsened and taken on an increasingly sectarian nature since March 2013, when a peace deal and power sharing agreement between Muslim rebels from the north and the previous government broke down.

In December, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said that more than 600 people have been killed and a million displaced, with the country in danger of spinning into genocide. Since that report the situation has quickly worsened.

Bensouda said Friday the incidents she is investigating "include hundreds of killings, acts of rape and sexual slavery, destruction of property, pillaging, torture, forced displacement and recruitment and use of children in hostilities."

She added that "in many incidents, victims appear to have been deliberately targeted on religious grounds."

The ICC, located in The Hague, Netherlands, is the world's permanent war crimes tribunal, established in 2002 to investigate and punish atrocities when member states are unwilling or unable to do so themselves. Central African Republic is a member.

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