Armed groups in Central African Republic (CAR) killed at least 45 civilians in apparent reprisal strikes over the past three months, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report.
The violence pitted armed groups against one another in the central province of Ouaka, the border of the mainly Muslim north and the mainly Christian south of the country.
“As factions vie for power in the CAR, civilians on all sides are exposed to their deadly attacks,” said Lewis Mudge, Africa researcher at the US-based human rights watchdog.
CAR has seen violence since 2013, when a mainly Muslim rebel coalition called the Seleka ousted President Francois Bozize and went on looting and killing raids, prompting Christians to form self-defence militias.
The Seleka and other groups have since splintered, prompting further violence even as the country held a democratic election won by President Faustin-Archange Touadera who was sworn in in March 2016.
A witness to the recent attacks, identified only as Clement, said advancing fighters from the Fulani Union for Peace in Central Africa (UP) shot four of his children dead including a seven-month-old baby during an attack in March.
Killings by the rival Popular Front for the Renaissance of Central African Republic (FPC) were also reported.
HRW based its tally on interviews with residents of Barbaric in April. It said the overall figure was likely higher since dozens of people are still missing.
The United Nations which has a 13,000 peacekeeping mission in the former French colony sought to disperse fighters with air strikes in Ouaka as they advanced on Barbaric. The United States has imposed sanctions on militia leaders.
Violence persists. Medical charity MSF said last month it is the worst seen in a years-long conflict and reported mutilations and summary executions.