The Central African Republic (CAR) has been rocked by unrest since rebels known as Seleka, or alliance, seized power and overthrew the government. There have also been an increasing number of attacks by a group called Anti-Balaka, which is fighting the Seleka rebels.

The group's name means anti-machete in the local language.

Some say they are vigilantes. Other people say they are former members of the Central African army and loyal to Francois Bozize, who was president of the CAR until he was toppled in a coup in March.

Their main target appears to be the former Seleka rebels who are now in the security forces.

There are at least four main groups in the CAR:

1. Seleka

Former rebels who have, to all intents and purposes, been in power since March.

There are many foreign mercenaries among the predominantly Muslim group, mostly from Chad and Sudan.

They have been responsible for many human rights abuses and extra judicial killings since last December.

2. Anti-Balakas

A new rebel group whose name means "anti machete".

It is a catch-all for local vigilantes armed with bows and arrows. They include former soldiers and supporters of ousted President Francois Bozize.

The group is predominantly Christian and increasingly involved in atrocities targeting the Muslim community.

There is little solid evidence so far that they are organised, well armed or well backed. Until December 5,  there had been mostly small scale ad hoc attacks on Seleka. 

3. Multinational Force of Central Africa (FOMAC) peacekeepers

The Central African Republic international peacekeeping force consists of troops from Gabon, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville and others.

The force will soon to transform into International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA) under African Union control with a UN mandate, pending UN resolution, which is expected in December. MISCA will take over on December 19.

4. France's involvement in CAR

France has 600 troops in the CAR, but that is set to increase to 1,200. They are tasked with protecting French expatriates and the airport.

Nominally, they are supposed to support FOMAC but there has not been not much of that. They should soon have a more robust UN mandate.

Source: Al Jazeera