The Red Cross in the Central African Republic has announced that it has "found 78 bodies" in the streets of the capital Bangui since it was seized last weekend by the Seleka rebel coalition.
"Since Saturday til today, our volunteers have found 78 bodies that were taken to the morgues.... We ask the population to come to these sanitary institutions to identify the bodies with a view to taking them away for burial," Red Cross official Albert Yomba Eyamo told the AFP news agency on Friday.
Thousands of armed rebels invaded the capital of the Central African Republic last weekend, killing an untold number of civilians and at least thirteen South African soldiers in the intense fighting.
Meanwhile, ousted Central African Republic President Francois Bozize requested exile in the tiny West African nation of Benin, the country's Foreign Affairs Minister Nassirou Arifari Bako confirmed late on Thursday.
"It is true that he has asked Benin to welcome him but nothing has been decided yet," Bako told The Associated Press news agency. "It's a delicate subject."
Bozize lived in exile Benin during the 1980s and has made a number of private visits there over the years, observers say.
He and his family are members of the Celestial Church of Christ, which originated in Benin.
Bozize had faced threats from a myriad of armed groups since seizing power in 2003 after a rebellion. The latest rebellion was launched in December, when armed fighters began declaring control of towns across the sparsely populated north.
Regional mediators brought the rebels and Bozize together for peace talks in Gabon in January, and an agreement was reached that kept the rebels from attacking Bangui.
However, the accord quickly unravelled as the rebels accused Bozize of failing to deliver on his promises. Rebel leader Michel Djotodia declared himself president until 2016 just days after Bozize fled.