44 bodies recovered in CAR

Muslim Seleka and Christian militias have carried out tit-for-tat attacks on each other.

Muslim Seleka and Christian militias have carried out tit-for-tat attacks on each other.

BANGUI - Red Cross workers have recovered 44 bodies from the streets of Central African Republic's (CAR) capital, Bangui, they said on Thursday after inter-religious fighting in the last two days.

Six Chadian peacekeepers have also been killed in the former French colony, while judicial authorities said they had uncovered a mass grave with 30 bodies, many of them showing signs of torture, near a military base used by Seleka rebels.

The rebels seized power in March, unleashing a wave of looting and killing on the mostly Christian population. Thousands of French and African troops have struggled to contain a flare-up in violence in the last week.

The mostly Muslim Seleka and Christian militias have carried out tit-for-tat attacks on each other and on the local population.

Georgios Georgantas, head of an International Committee of the Red Cross delegation, said the 44 bodies were probably only a fraction of those killed in Bangui in the last two days, given that his team had been unable to go into parts of the city.

"Violence has been at extremely high levels. "We have information about more bodies in certain parts of town which we have been unable to access because the fighting was so intense." Georgantas said.

A representative of medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres at Bangui's main hospital said it had seen more than 50 people since Wednesday night with gunshot or machete wounds from the fighting that raged for hours across Bangui.

United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement on Thursday that he was appalled by the continued violence, including the reports of dozens more bodies found on the streets of Bangui.

Ban also said he was saddened by the deaths of the six peacekeepers. "Their mission is to provide desperately needed security. They are not part of the conflict between Central Africans," he said.

Ban is drafting plans for a possible UN peacekeeping mission in the CAR.

Meanwhile, the European Union on Monday banned the export of arms and the sending of mercenaries to CAR which is racked by sectarian violence.