Bangui - Armed men claiming to be members of the ruling Seleka movement in the Central African Republic killed seven people and wounded several others in an attack on the central town of Bouca, a military source said on Monday.
"Armed men who said they were Seleka forces attacked Bouca on Sunday morning, killing seven people, wounding many others with bullets and burning down almost 20 homes. The assailants... also took away possessions and promised to return. Most of the inhabitants have fled the town to take refuge in the bush," the source said.
The attackers arrived in the region last week and told the local population that "they came to protect them", before bursting into their homes to loot them, the source added.
The Seleka coalition, formerly a rebel alliance, overthrew the unstable regime of Francois Bozize on 24 March and Seleka leader Michel Djotodia proclaimed himself head of state. Since then, his government has struggled to secure the poor, landlocked nation, where conflict and looting are rife.
In a separate development, a rebel group was on Monday holding at least 10 hostages at Baboua in the west and demanding a ransom of €1 500 for their release, a military source said.
"At least 10 people, mostly children, are currently detained at Baboua by elements of the FDPC [Democratic Front for the Central African People] led by Abdoulaye Miskine, who are demanding payment of a ransom of a million," the source told AFP.
The FDPC was a part of the Seleka coalition during its insurgency, but threatened in April to take up arms against the new authorities. Government forces that month ordered an attack on FDPC positions, in which Miskine himself was injured.
At the request of the Bangui government, leaders in the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) plan to raise the number of troops deployed in a regional peacekeeping force from the current 700 to 2 000, in the hope of providing stability.