DAKAR (Reuters) - Red Cross workers have found 115 bodies in Central African Republic’s diamond-mining town of Bangassou after several days of militia attacks, the president of the aid group’s local branch said on Wednesday.
The battle for control of the town marks a new escalation in a conflict that began in 2013 when mainly Muslim Seleka fighters ousted then-President Francois Bozize, prompting reprisal killings from Christian militias.
Recent clashes have centred on diamond-rich central and southern areas of the country, with rival militias battling among themselves to control them, aid workers say.
“We found 115 bodies and 34 have been buried,” Antoine Mbao Bogo told Reuters by phone from the capital Bangui. “They died in various ways: from knives, from clubs and bullet wounds.”
A senior U.N. official had previously reported 26 civilian deaths.
Hundreds of militia with heavy weaponry seized the southeastern border town of Bangassou at the weekend and U.N. peacekeepers have since then been trying to wrest it back.
The deployment of extra U.N. troops and air strikes have helped peacekeepers regain control of strategic points, U.N. spokesman Herve Verhoosel said on Wednesday.
Clashes between militias in the central town of Bria have killed five people, he added. The U.N. is also seeking to verify the deaths of up to 100 people in the town of Alindao.
Reporting by Emma Farge; additional reporting by Tom Miles in Geneva; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Richard Lough