Suspected ex-rebels from the Central African Republic's Seleka movement have massacred at least 34 people in several northern villages over the past several days, officials said.

The former rebels killed at least 34 people over the last week in a series of attacks on remote villages, Bienvenu Sarapata, mayor of the M'bres commune in north of the capital Bangui told the AP news agency on Saturday

"The attackers arrived by foot and on motorbikes. They fired point-blank at anybody they encountered. They said they were going to 'clean' eight villages.

Achille Ketegazam, local resident

"At least 34 people from several villages were killed between August 13 and 15 in the M'bres region by armed men identified by inhabitants as ex-Seleka," an officer in the African peacekeeping force, MISCA, told the AFP news agency on the same day.

The officer said the fleeing residents spoke of the attackers "firing on their victims at point-blank range and chasing them into the bush and some of the victims died by hanging, others were beaten or tortured to death".

One resident who fled, Achille Ketegaza, confirmed that account to AFP, saying: "The attackers arrived by foot and on motorbikes. They fired point-blank at anybody they encountered. They said they were going to 'clean' eight villages between M'bres, Ndele and Bakala before September 15."

A UN force is to be deployed to the country on September 15.

CAR has been torn apart by ethnic and religious violence since the Seleka, an alliance of mostly Muslim groups, seized power in March 2013.

Their leader, Michel Djotodia, was president for nine months before having to step down under strong international pressure after many Seleka fighters refused to disband and carried out atrocities against civilians.

New government

A mostly Christian militia called the "anti-balaka" - or anti-machete - rose to counter the rogue Seleka fighters, but they also committed serious crimes against civilians.

Some 2,000 French peacekeeping troops were deployed alongside an African Union military force of around 6,000 men from December last year.

Transitional President Catherine Samba Panza last week appointed a new interim prime minister, Mahamat Kamoun, to lead a new broad-based government with the task of ending the chaos and overseeing a democratic transition in the deeply poor landlocked nation.

Seleka, which controls parts of the north, has said it will not participate in the new government.

Source: Agencies