CAR largeThe Red Cross has been burying bodies in the Central African Republic – again.

This time it has been in the towns of Bossangoa and Bouca – a day’s drive North-West of the capital, Bangui.

As is so often the case in this vast, lawless country, exactly who is doing the fighting is unclear, but the Red Cross describes the situation as very tense.

Civilians worry that clashes could erupt at any time, forcing them to flee into the bush.

The head of the Red Cross, Stefan Bigler, says parts of Bouca – a town of 20,000 – now lie deserted.

Who’s behind the fighting

One report says the fighting has been between between the Seleka rebel alliance which took power in March, and militias loyal to ousted President Francois Bozize.

More than 100 civilians are reported to have been killed in the clashes; whole villages have been burned to the ground; thousands have been displaced.

The UN refugee agency acknowledges that fresh conflict has increased the civilian displacement. “As of now, fighting appears to have subsided in the area, but the situation remains very tense,” said a UNHCR spokesperson.

A religious dimension

There are suggestions that there is a religious dimension to the unrest.

CAR mediumWhile many in the South of the Central African Republic are Christian, the Seleka rebels are seen as mainly Muslim.

Pastor Nicolas Guerékoyamé, President of the Alliance of Evangelical Churches in CAR (who was last month arrested for speaking out) condemned the latest violence, which, he says, is leading the country towards sectarian conflict.

“We appeal to all communities of the Central African Republic not to yield to the temptation of interfaith divide,” he is reported as saying.

Speaking off the record, an aid worker said that if the fighting took on a religious dimension the troubles could ignite the situation in Bangui itself, with catastrophic consequences.

In the meantime few look to the small African peacekeeping force, for help. Although some reinforcements have arrived, they are far too weak to halt any intensification of the fighting.