44 bodies have been recovered by Red Cross workers from the streets of Central African Republic’s capital Bangui, after inter-religious fighting in the past two days.
The group made the announcement on Thursday, a day after 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.
Six Chadian peacekeepers have also been killed in the former French colony.
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 self-defence armed groups 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,” Georgantas told Reuters by telephone. “We have information about more bodies in certain parts of town which we have been unable to access because the fighting was so intense.”
Meanwhile, the spokesman for the embattled president of the Central African Republic, Mihel Djotodia, confirmed that assailants had attempted to attack the presidential palace, but were pushed back.
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 which raged for hours across Bangui.
A spokesman for the African Union peacekeeping mission (MISCA) said Chadian peacekeepers were attacked by gunmen in the Gabongo neighbourhood near the airport on Wednesday.
“The number of Chadian soldiers killed has risen to six because one of them died from his wounds this morning,” Elio Yao told Reuters.
He could not give a precise total for the number of African peacekeepers killed so far in the crisis. [Reuters]