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CAR holds three days of mourning after massacre

The slaughter near Paoua was the biggest single loss of life since the government and 14 militias signed a deal in February aimed at restoring peace to one of Africa's most troubled countries.

President of the Central African Republic Faustin Archange Touadéra. Picture: United Nations Photo.

BANGUI - The leader of the Central African Republic proclaimed three days of mourning starting Thursday for more than 50 people killed this week in a massacre attributed to an armed group called 3R.

The public display of sorrow was to honour the victims of the killings that took place Tuesday in villages near the northwestern town of Paoua, close to the border with Chad, as well as the murder of a 77-year-old French-Spanish nun in the southwest of the country whose beheaded body was found Monday, according to the decree by President Faustin-Archange Touadera.

The slaughter near Paoua was the biggest single loss of life since the government and 14 militias signed a deal in February aimed at restoring peace to one of Africa's most troubled countries.

The UN peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic, Minusca, revised up its death toll from the northwest massacre to more than 50, from a previous count of more than 30.

According to one UN source, the 3R group - which gets its initials from "Return, Reclamation and Reconciliation" and claims to represent the Fulani, one of the country's many ethnic groups - hosted a meeting with the villagers and then gunned them down indiscriminately.

Minusca and the country's authorities on Wednesday gave the 3R group until the end of the week to hand over the suspected perpetrators of the massacre.

In a statement on Thursday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned "the attacks against villages in western Central African Republic".

Guterres noted that the attacks "were attributed to 3R", which is a "signatory to the peace agreement signed on 6 February in Bangui".

"He urges all the signatory armed groups to immediately cease all violence in line with their commitments in the peace agreement," the statement said.

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