Fighting between rival sectarian groups in the Central African Republic has killed eight people and wounded 25 others, as gunfire and explosions rang out in the capital for a second day, the United Nations and Red Cross said. 

Fighting continued on Thursday, as Muslim Seleka fighters clashed with a Christian militia in the capital Bangui, in the worst bout of violence since a UN peacekeeping force took over last month.

Witnesses said that machine gun and heavy weapons fire rang out overnight and into Thursday morning, forcing the country's Red Cross branch to suspend its operations to retrieve the dead and wounded.

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The violence began on Tuesday when a former fighter from the Muslim Seleka group was killed by anti-Balaka Christian militias who mutilated his body before burning it, witnesses said.

Reprisal attacks ensued, with Muslim fighters killing two people, as anti-Balaka fighters paraded through the streets, shooting their weapons into the air.

The UN mission reported violent protests in front of their compound, their vehicles shot at and pelted with stones over the last two days.

The UN took over peacekeeping operations there last month, but violence continues to simmer between the rebels and Christian militias.

The former French colony, one of Africa's poorest despite reserves of gold and diamonds, was plunged into chaos when mostly Muslim Seleka rebels started attacking towns and grabbing territory before seizing power in March 2013.

At least 5,000 people have died over nine months of sectarian violence in the country, which is currently led by a transitional president.

Sporadic violence has continued to plague CAR, despite the Seleka leader's resignation from the presidency in January and the formation of a transition government led by Catherine Samba-Panza.

Source: Agencies