At least 30 people dead in three days of 'unprecedenented levels of violence' in Central African Republic
At least 30 people have died in the last three days as Central African Republic's capital Bangui experiences "unprecedented levels of violence", Red Cross officials have warned as heavily armed rebels regrouped in a town about 100 miles away.
Marauding gangs with machetes hacked to death one man this week as French peacekeepers awaited instructions from their base. By the time they fired warning shots 10 minutes later, the man already had been killed by the crowd.
The attacks have largely targeted Muslim civilians accused of having supported the Seleka rebels who overthrew the government in March 2013, ushering in months of violence against the Christian majority.
An armed Christian movement known as the anti-Balaka arose in opposition to Seleka, and included supporters of ousted president Francois Bozize.
Now that the Seleka leader who installed himself as president has stepped down and many rebels have left the capital, Muslim civilians have become increasingly vulnerable to horrific attacks in which crowds have killed them and then mutilated their bodies.
"The level of violence is unprecedented in the last few weeks," said Nadia Dibsy, a spokeswoman for the ICRC in Bangui, which announced the toll in conjunction with the local Red Cross.
"We're calling on regional forces to put an end to the violence and ensure the protection of the population."
Nearly 5,000 African peacekeepers and 1,600 French troops are working to secure the country.
Most of those peacekeepers, though, remain in the capital, Bangui, even as violence soars in the remote northwest.
Human rights groups have urged the troops to head out into the communities where militias are regrouping and staging new attacks.
Today there were new concerns about the intentions of hundreds of Seleka rebels who had left the capital under the escort of regional peacekeepers.
It now appears that they have merely reassembled at a base in the town of Sibut, only about 110 miles (180 kms) from the capital.