Militia fighters attacked, kidnapped and raped en masse a large group of women in an isolated area of Central African Republic last month, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said on Thursday.
The medical charity treated 10 survivors of the February 17 violence near Kiriwiri, a village in the country’s northwest. Fearing further attacks if they tried to reach a hospital, the women were unable to seek medical treatment until about two weeks later, it said.
Many other victims remained behind, fearing that, as rape victims, they would be stigmatised in their community.
“Some were totally in shock, others paralysed by fear or unable to talk about the incident. Some of the women had open wounds caused by blades,” said Soulemane Amoin, a midwife at the hospital in the town of Bossangoa where the women were treated.
“It was terrible to see. It broke my heart.”
Central African Republic descended into chaos after mainly Muslim Seleka rebels ousted president Francois Bozize in 2013, provoking a spate of killing by Christian anti-balaka militias.
Despite the deployment of a 12,000-strong UN peacekeeping mission, rival armed groups still stalk much of the countryside. The UN Security Council approved an extra 900 peacekeepers in November to help to protect civilians.
However Gabon, which contributes around 550 soldiers to the mission, announced on Thursday it was planning to withdraw its contingent, citing what it said was a “progressive return of peace and stability”.