A militia group has killed 27 Muslims in a village in the Central African Republic, the United Nations said on Friday.
The Christian militia, known as anti-Balaka, killed the Muslims on Thursday in Bohong, a village about 75 km (47 miles) from the far western town of Bouar, the U.N. Human Rights office said.
Earlier this month, a group of vigilante Christians killed at least 12 Muslims, including a pregnant woman and 10 children. The gang of Christians disembowelled the pregnant woman and slashed the children with machetes in the attack against Peuhl Muslims. The attack took place around 95km north of the capital Bangu.
“The situation is also tense in several towns, including Bouca, Bossangoa and Bozoum, where a vicious cycle of attacks and reprisals continues,” it said in an email.
Mostly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in March, ousting President Francois Bozize. Christian militia and gunmen loyal to Bozize attacked the capital last week, triggering fresh killings and reprisals. More than 500 people died and 100,000 were displaced from their homes in the capital Bangui alone.
French troops, who now number 1,600 in the country begun disarming gunmen as well as moving out to other towns.
“We condemn any attack on places of worship and on religious freedom, and urge all communities to exercise restraint,” the U.N. Human Rights office said in a briefing note.
The African country is rich in diamonds, gold and uranium but has seen little stability in five decades. France has intervened more since independence in 1960 than in any of its former colonies.
Several people died in clashes in the Miskine neighbourhood of northwest Bangui on Thursday night and Friday morning, according to witnesses, a sign that the capital itself remains unstable.
The fighting started when ethnic Christians on Thursday looted the motor-bike shop of a man linked to the Seleka and escalated into reprisal killings. French troops, backed by a helicopter, restored calm on Friday, they said.
“The tension is still high in the neighbourhood despite the presence of the French,” said Chancella Cazalima, a student.
Residents in Miskine said it was a Seleka stronghold and urged the French army and African peacekeepers to step up their intelligence operations in a bid to bring calm.
The United Nations warned groups carrying out atrocities in the Central African Republic the world was watching and would hold them to account, after the killings of hundreds of people, mainly civilians.
Confronted with a deepening humanitarian crisis and criticism from some aid workers that it was reacting too slowly, the United Nations flew in 77 tonnes of relief supplies, the largest airlift since fighting last week.
“Too many people are scared and the country is on the brink of ruin … The bloodshed must stop,” Ban said in a radio address to the nation.
“I have a clear message to all who would commit atrocities and crimes against humanity. The world is watching. You will be held to account,” he added. The International Criminal Court has said all parties could be investigated.
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Paris had been surprised by the scale of the violence in the capital.
“We thought the risk would have been bigger up country than in Bangui but in fact it was the other way round,” he said during a visit on Friday, adding that deployments outside Bangui would gradually pick up once the capital was secured.
As international efforts to tackle the crisis accelerate, the African Union has authorised increasing its force in the country to 6,000 troops from 2,500.
UNICEF said on Friday it had flown in tonnes of supplies, including blankets, soap, jerry cans and medicines. “This new arrival of emergency supplies is critical to prevent diseases, especially among the most vulnerable children and women.”
French medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres had on Thursday accused U.N. agencies of failing to mobilise resources quickly enough to the crisis, which has forced 500,000 people from their homes over the last year.
Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye confirmed he would not stand at the next elections in accordance with a political accord signed in January. An independent body to prepare elections would be set up in days, he added.
France wants elections brought forward to next year, putting an end to the interim period originally scheduled to run into 2015.