Bangui - Shots rang out and blasts from heavy weapons rocked several districts of the Central African capital on Thursday, AFP reporters said amid communal tensions ahead of a UN vote authorising force to stop the country's descent into chaos.
The automatic gunfire whose origin was not immediately clear started around 05:30 in the PK-12 area in the north of Bangui, and then spread to other neighbourhoods not far from the city centre near the river.
The streets of the capital were otherwise deserted around 06:00 at the end of an overnight curfew.
The incidents came as the UN Security Council was set to vote on Thursday on a measure authorising thousands of African and French troops to end anarchy in the Central African Republic, where massacres have led to warnings of genocide-style strife.
The resolution, which envoys say is certain to be passed unanimously, also orders an arms embargo against the impoverished nation where chaos has reigned since rebels forced the president to flee in March.
Muslim and Christian groups are fighting each other and tens of thousands of people have taken refuge in churches and mosques fearing sectarian attacks, according to aid workers.