Bangui (Central African Republic) (AFP) - At least 50 people have been killed and dozens more injured since Tuesday after armed men attacked three villages in the central Bambari region of the Central African Republic, local residents who fled their homes told AFP.
Prosper Tchoulekrayo, who escaped from Yasseneme village, said the attackers had "fired indiscriminately on the inhabitants".
"The provisional toll of the attacks in the Agoudou Manga, Yasseneme and Ngouyanza is at least 50 dead. Dozens more have been injured," said Isaac Arata-Naba, an Agoudou Manga resident.
Tchoulekrayo said the attacks were staged by members of the UPC, a faction of the former rebel and mainly Muslim Seleka movement "which is continuing to stage reprisal attacks against natives."
But a UPC (Unity of Central African People) source denied the group was involved in the latest attacks.
The source said a rival Seleka faction called the Popular Front for the Rebirth of the Central African Republic had raided the villages, adding that they were targeting UPC positions.
One of the world's poorest nations, the Central African Republic has been struggling to recover from a three-year civil war between the Muslim and Christian militias that started in 2013.
President Faustin-Archange Touadera took office in March 2016 with a mandate to lead a transition to peace but much of the country remains under the control of armed groups.
Deadly clashes between rival factions have regularly broken out near the central town of Bambari, where a contingent of the UN peacekeeping force is based.
The fighting is linked to the control of lucrative mines in the mineral-rich country and racketeering.
An independent UN expert on Central Africa, Marie-Therese Keita-Bocoum, had in February deplored that "armed groups have taken over more than 60 percent of the country."