Fresh fighting has broken out in the strife- torn Central African Republic as the deadline closed yesterday for candidates to register for a vote by the transitional parliament for a new interim president.
"There is some violence nearly everywhere," an officer with the MISCA African peacekeeping force told AFP, pointing to Bouar in the west near the border with Cameroon, the town of Sibut north of Bangui, and Boali to the northwest of the capital.
"People are in a desperate situation and as we get closer to the election it is going to get worse," added the officer, who requested anonymity.
At least three people were killed in Sibut, a resident told AFP by telephone as under-siege civilians called on the international forces for help.
A Catholic Church source said the parish premises came under attack in Sibut.
MISCA (the French force) told AFP that teams were on their way to the town of about 25,000 people, an important transport hub known for its market.
But the MISCA officer told AFP that the African force has been flooded with calls for help, all of which cannot be handled.
Some 4,400 African troops and 1,600 French soldiers have been deployed to the CAR to try to restore order in the impoverished country that plunged into chaos and sectarian violence following a March 2013 coup.
The mostly Muslim Seleka rebels installed their leader Michel Djotodia as president in the mainly Christian country. But having failed to establish order he resigned on January 11 under pressure from African leaders who feared the unrest could spread throughout the region.
Now the country's interim parliament is expected to vote tomorrow for a new transition president. With the deadline for filing candidacies passed, the list of contenders is to be published today.
So far there are reportedly at least a dozen candidates, including Bangui mayor Catherine Samba Panza, the sons of former presidents Ange-Felix Patasse and Andre Kolingba.