Central African Priest Killed by Rebels

Violence Reported Against Religious Communities

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BANGUI, Central African Republic, DEC. 15, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Rebels linked to an October coup attempt were blamed for murdering a priest in cold blood last week in Bossangoa, a hot spot of insurrections.

Father Jean Claude Kilamong, about 40, was found dead last Monday. A day earlier he was being held by armed men who have controlled the city for over a month, sources told the Misna missionary agency. His funeral was held Tuesday in the local cathedral.

Rebels have ransacked the local hospital and destroyed the surgery area. Virtually all the clergy have left Bossangoa, a city about 300 kilometers (185 miles) north of the capital. Thousands of civilians have also fled.

The religious who have remained have taken cover in the minor seminary, fearing further violence.

Of great concern is the Franciscan community in the heart of the city, where five Capuchin missionaries — three Frenchmen, an Italian and a Pole — are virtual hostages of the militiamen.

Another Franciscan community, near Bossangoa, was attacked two weeks ago by the same rebels. Three missionaries — a 67-year-old Italian, a 77-year-old Frenchman and a young Central African — were beaten and threatened with death. They eventually managed to flee to Bangui.

On Oct. 30, the Vatican appealed to the international community to help foster peace in this coup-prone country. John Paul II made an appeal June 6 calling for an end to bloodshed in the former French colony of 3.6 million people.

The rebels who tried to oust President Ange-Félix Patassé last October were led by a former Chief of Staff, General François Bozize.

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