The Central African Republic's interim president has announced "exceptional measures" designed to quell violence by rebels.

The statement issued on Tuesday from Michel Djotodia's office did not provide details on the measures, but said that security was a priority for his administration.

"The president wants to assure the Central African people of his determination to hunt down all criminals, looters, troublemakers, human rights violators and their accomplices," the statement said.

"Exceptional measures are being taken to restore security," it said.

Since Djotodia seized power in a coup in March, the remnants of his Seleka rebel coalition have been sowing chaos across the vast nation.

Government forces are struggling to assert their authority beyond the capital Bangui.

[Violence in the CAR] threatens to degenerate into a countrywide religious and ethnic divide, with the potential to spiral into an uncontrollable situation

Ban Ki Moon

An under-funded and ill-equipped African force has made little impact so far.

Djotodia is the first Muslim president in the Christian-majority country and some of the recent deadly violence has had sectarian undertones.

On Tuesday, thousands of villagers fled clashes near the town of Bouca between former rebels and local militias, residents said, increasing concerns about growing violence between Muslims and Christians.

Ban Ki-moon, UN's Secretary General, said on Monday that one alternative to providing financial and logistical support to the African force was to send up to 9,000 UN peacekeepers.

In his report to the Security Council, Mr Ban said violence in the CAR "threatens to degenerate into a countrywide religious and ethnic divide, with the potential to spiral into an uncontrollable situation".

Human Rights Watch said the report clearly suggested that the African force - known as MISCA - was not up to the task and that "only a UN peacekeeping mission can avoid the worst case scenario."

Source: Agencies