At least 10 people were killed in clashes across the capital of the Central African Republic between supporters of its former president and the fighters who ousted him and seized power five months ago, officials said.
Newly sworn-in rebel leader Michel Djotodia is struggling to control the impoverished but mineral-rich nation, which has witnessed a string of violent power changes since independence from France in 1960.
Human rights groups accuse Seleka, the grouping of five rebel movements that brought him to power and ousted former President Francois Bozize, of abuses, looting and indiscriminate killings, Reuters reports.
Officials in Bangui said the fighting on Tuesday started after Seleka fighters tried to disarm Bozize supporters in their Boy-Rabe stronghold in the riverside capital.
Before fleeing, Bozize distributed thousands of weapons to youths in Boy-Rabe, security minister Noureldine Adam told Reuters on Wednesday.
“The young people have never come to terms with the change in the country, thus their hostility towards the new government,” said Adam. “We want to put an end to all of this.”
Some, including the Catholic archbishop of Bangui, have accused the rebels in power of brutality and indiscriminate killings.
“We cannot talk of trying to disarm when you shoot innocent people, loot and pillage peaceful citizens. We do not call that disarmament,” Dieudonne Nzapalainga told Reuters.
Yvon Sanze, a high school student, said he witnessed Seleka fighters executing two men while he was hiding in a nearby bush during the fighting.
“I saw them arrest the two men who were trying to flee Boy-Rabe. The rebels forced the two to lie down in a ditch off the Independence Avenue and sprayed shots on them from their Kalashnikov,” Sanze said.
“One of the two killed was a mathematics teacher.”
A spokesman for the government declined to comment on the accusations by the archbishop and the student, saying it was still investigating the incidents.
Romain Guitinza, a director at a community hospital in Bangui, said seven dead and 17 wounded were recorded at the hospital from the fighting on Tuesday.
In Boeing, another neighborhood where fighting took place, General Moussa Assabarassoul, who led the Seleka troops, said two of his men and a woman had been killed during the fighting.
By Wednesday afternoon there was an uneasy calm in the capital, but residents said Boy-Rabe was empty as many resident had sought refuge elsewhere.
The United Nations said last week the country was on the brink of collapse and the crisis was threatening to spread beyond its borders.
The government of neighboring Cameroon, through which pass most supplies to land-locked Central African Republic, temporarily shut its border on Wednesday, saying Seleka rebels had killed a police officer at a border post 600 km (370 miles) from the Cameroon capital.
Seleka fighters had crossed into Cameroon on August 19 and spent the day drinking, Cameroon state radio reported. A dispute erupted before the shooting, it added.