A local pastor (yet to be named) was among scores killed as members of the predominantly Muslim Seleka rebel group attacked communities around the town of Kaga Bandoro, 350km north of the Central African Republic capital, Bangui.

In the village of Ndomete, the rebels killed 26 people as they went door to door in the early hours of 16 September. They also looted a Catholic Church 20km from Kaga Bandoro and several other properties, including NGO offices.

Dozens of people ran into the bush; others sought refuge at a UN Peacekeepers’ (MINUSCA)base. MINUSCA said troops had been deployed to prevent further violence, but according to local media, the Seleka rebels are still present in Ndomete and other communities.

The violence erupted when members of the vigilante anti-Balaka (“anti-machete”) group attacked a faction of Seleka rebels. A local analyst told World Watch Monitor this outbreak shows the situation is still fragile and that there is a need to proceed to the disarmament and demobilisation of militias, which are particularly active in the north and north-east.

Yonas Dembele, analyst at the Research Unit of Open Doors, said: “After the March election that was supposed to herald [stability], this massacre is the largest and most notable indication of the resumption of the sectarian violence that pitted Muslims and Christians against one another. The President faces a very thorough challenge in stopping the violence and imposing law and order. Unless the government and the UN peacekeeping forces manage to stabilise the situation quickly, the so-called ‘Christian’ anti-Balaka militia could join in.”