Bangui: Waiting for the next big battle

A tense calm hovers in the CAR capital, as armed fighters reportedly regroup outside the city.

The streets of Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, are no longer deserted – on the main avenues, some people are cautiously venturing out.

In a suburb close to the airport, women are pushing carts, picking up the dead bodies men can’t perform the task, because they are more of a target.

There are some civilian vehicles on the streets – our drivers have made it to our hotel. Seleka security forces operating informal checkpoints throughout the city stole their mobile phones, but allowed them to pass through.

There are reports, which we are trying to confirm, that Seleka security forces attempted to storm a church where a number of Christians were hiding overnight. French troops are understood to have intervened, and prevented a possible massacre.

Thousands of people are not taking the risk of staying in the urban centre. Many are leaving their homes or local churches and sleeping out in the open green fields around Bangui’s international airport, which is situated next to a military base holding troops from the French military and FOMAC – the Multinational Force of Central Africa.

The French have put up barbed wire around their camp, and ask journalists not to go inside, concerned that we could create a stampede.

Yesterday and today, there is the roar of a French Rafale fighter flying low, in an attempt – the French military – says to intimidate the rival armed groups.

It is not clear where Anti-Balaka, the mainly Christian militia which carried out Thursday’s attack, has gone. Sources tell us that many of their fighters fled immediately following the attack.

One source says they are hiding outside the city, waiting for reinforcements. This makes them sound like an army rather than a group of organised vigilantes. This also seems to suggest that they are being funded and armed it is unclear whether their backer is the former president, Francois Bozize, or other former members of the Central African Army.

One diplomat based in Bangui told Al Jazeera there could be “the mother of all battles” in the Central African Republic – “the crystallisation of the current crisis”.

For more updates, follow Nazanine Moshiri on Twitter: @NazanineMoshiri