Armed militias targeting Muslims in the remote Central African Republic town of Bangassou in recent days have killed up to 30 civilians and six U.N. peacekeepers.
The U.N. Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic, or MINUSCA, says it is sending reinforcements to Bangassou where it says displaced civilians are seeking refuge in a mosque, a Catholic church and a Doctors Without Borders hospital.
MINUSCA chief Parfait Onanga-Anyanga told Reuters, "The situation is extremely deplorable and we are doing everything to rapidly retake control of Bangassou." He said child soldiers, who appear to be drugged, are among the assailants.
A statement Sunday from U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he is "outraged" by the attacks against the civilians and the peacekeepers in Bangassou. He said the attacks against the peacekeepers "may constitute a war crime."
CAR President Faustin Touadera said Sunday he intends to go to Bangassou to give his "support to the wounded population." He said CAR will "never be abandoned in the hands of death brought by those who reject all peace process."
Aid workers in CAR have warned that the country may be sliding back into conflict. Tens of thousands of people have fled violence in the countryside over the past six months. More than half of the population relies on humanitarian aid, but the U.N. says relief efforts are dangerously underfunded.
The violence recalls the fighting and communal clashes that plunged the country into chaos nearly four years ago. Aid workers say the renewed violence has been a major setback.
One-fifth of the country's population is currently displaced.
Doctors Without Borders says civilians are being attacked at levels not seen in years.
CAR is one of the poorest countries in the world.