Muslim civilians ride a truck in the P12 district of Bangui as they flee the Central African Republic capital on January Image Credit: AFP

Bangui: Fresh fighting has broken out in the conflict-torn Central African Republic, witnesses said on Saturday, as the deadline closed for candidates to register for a vote by the transitional parliament for a new interim president.

At least three people were killed in Sibut, about 160 kilometres north of the capital Bangui, a resident told AFP by telephone.

“I’m putting out a cry of alarm,” he said on condition of anonymity. “The (ex-rebel) Seleka movement is reigning like warlords in the city and there is no foreign force to protect us.”

The fighting, which broke out Friday in the town’s bus station and market, has forced residents indoors or prompted them to flee into the bush, the source said.

A Catholic Church source said the parish premises came under attack in Sibut. “We tried to contact (the African peacekeeping force) Misca and (the French force) Sangaris for quick help, but so far there is no one,” he said.

Misca told AFP that teams were on their way to the town of about 25,000 people, an important transport hub known for its market.

The religious official said fighting has also broken out in the western town of Bossemptele near the border with Cameroon.

“The parish was sacked, the priest’s car was stolen and the hospital was looted,” he said. “There were some injuries.”

International forces are trying to restore order after the former French colony plunged into sectarian fighting following a March coup in which the mainly Muslim Seleka rebel group overthrew president Francois Bozize.

Violence in the highly unstable country has not let up despite the January 11 resignation of strongman Michel Djotodia under intense regional pressure.

He had proved unable to control his forces, whose looting, killing and raping spree sparked revenge attacks from Christian militias.

The Central African Republic’s new interim president will be elected on Monday, the country’s transitional authorities announced.

The United Nations warned on Thursday that bloodshed in the country could turn into genocide.

Meanwhile, European aid chief Kristalina Georgieva said the Central African Republic could still be saved from becoming another failed state like Somalia, but it probably will require the deployment of a strong United Nations peacekeeping operation.

Georgieva, who has visited Central African Republic twice since the crisis erupted, said in an interview that initially people were wary of speaking out about the sectarian violence because they were concerned it would become a self-fulfilling prophecy, like “pulling the tail of the devil.” France last year deployed some 1,600 troops to help a largely ineffective African peacekeeping force.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is due to submit a report to the Security Council next month with recommendations for a possible UN peacekeeping force that would take over from the African troops.

“The option of a UN peacekeeping operation must be looked into very seriously,” Georgieva said.

— With inputs from Reuters