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/ Source: Reuters

BANGUI, Central African Republic - At least 22 people, including 15 local chiefs and three members of staff of the medical charity Doctors Without Borders, were killed in an attack in the Central African Republic, officials said Sunday.

Saturday's attack was in Nanga Boguila, about 280 miles north of the capital Bangui. Some 2,000 French and over 5,000 African peacekeepers are struggling to halt waves of violence that have gripped the country over the last 18 months.

Gilles Xavier Nguembassa, a former member of parliament for the area, said four people were killed as the assailants approached the town but most died when Seleka rebels went to a health clinic in search of money.

The attack took place while local chiefs were holding a meeting there and the gunmen opened fire when some of the chiefs tried to run away, he said.

"Fifteen of the local chiefs were killed on the spot," he told Reuters, citing witnesses he had spoken to. A local representative of the Bangui government confirmed the incident.

Children carry furniture as they walk past a burning car near Bangui, Central African Republic, on Sunday.ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP - Getty Images

A spokesman for Doctors Without Borders confirmed the deaths of its staff.

The mainly Muslim Seleka forces seized Bangui in March 2013 but their time in power was scarred by killings and other rights abuses, prompting the creation of the mainly Christian "anti-balaka" self-defense militia.

Seleka leaders stepped down in January under intense international pressure but the peacekeepers and a weak interim government have failed to stamp their authority on the country.

Underscoring the depth of the crisis, peacekeepers escorted around 1,300 Muslims out of Bangui on Sunday, triggering looting and removing one of the last pockets of Muslims from the capital, deepening Muslim-Christian divisions.

Around a million people have fled their homes during the crisis and human rights officials say parts of the country have seen "religious cleansing."

- Reuters