A United Nations peacekeeper from the Republic of Congo has been killed in the Central African Republic by a militia, underscoring the growing peril that international forces are facing in the troubled nation.
The Congolese soldier, stationed in the town of Bossangoa, was killed by the anti-balaka group late on Sunday, according to an official speaking to the AP news agency on the condition of anonymity.
Terrible atrocities are occurring.
"He was killed last night in Bossangoa by the anti-balaka, with an unprecedented level of barbarity," said the official who accompanied the soldier's remains back to the Congolese capital of Brazzaville. "They lacerated him and hacked his head."
Bossangoa has been the epicentre of recent fighting between the country's Muslim minority and Christian majority.
French and UN forces were deployed to the CAR earlier this month to combat the violence between both groups. They were initially welcomed by people cheering on the streets but have since been criticised for taking sides in the conflict.
"We are seeing a very clear rise in tension," Colonel Gilles Jaron, a French military spokesman, told AP. "We are acting since we did in the beginning, in total impartiality."
'Cycle of retribution and violence'
Seleka fighters, the Muslim group that overthrew the country's Christian president in March, have attacked French troops because they see them as being against Michael Djotodia, the interim president.
UN peacekeepers have also become the target of Christian fighters who believe the Chadian contingent to be allied with the country's Muslims.
Some 40,000 refugees have sought shelter at the international airport where Christians organised a march to demand that Djotodia resign.
Violence broke out at the march when a Muslim man brandished a gun. Both the man and his son were lynched by the crowd.
"One of the worries that we came away from the Central African Republic with was that those who are not seeing justice done are increasingly tempted to take matters into their own hands, and that you're seeing a cycle of retribution and violence which is very, very long," Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN who recently returned from the CAR, said.
"Terrible atrocities are occurring."