Bangui - Ten bodies showing signs of torture have been found this week in a river in the troubled Central African Republic, a security official said on Thursday.
The bodies were found in the central Bambari region, close to 400km from the capital Bangui, and near where the mainly-Muslim ex-Seleka rebels have established their new headquarters.
"At least 10 bodies bearing signs of torture have been found floating in the Ouaka river near Bambari since Monday," a police official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"The bodies are all male, and seem to have been tortured, beaten and stabbed or shot, and they all had their arms and feet bound," he added, saying that an investigation had been launched into the killings.
The Central African Republic has seen more than a year of unrest, with violence between the ex-Seleka rebels and the largely Christian militias leaving tens of thousands dead and about a quarter of the population of some 4.5 million displaced.
Fighting in a village outside the town of Bambari earlier this month left at least 22 people dead, both Muslim and Christian, according to security officials.
A local journalist said that the bodies found in the latest massacre had been "horribly mutilated" and that recent violence in the region had left the local population in a state of panic.
"Life has become unbearable because of the ex-Seleka, who easily infiltrate the population to attack civilians," he said.
Amadi Nedjad, a spokesperson for the ex-Seleka, denied that his group had anything to do with the bodies found in the river.
"Members of the ex-Seleka are all currently confined to barracks in Bambari. They could not have left their headquarters, where they are being watched by French troops from the Sangaris force, and African soldiers from MISCA, to go and commit these crimes," he said.
France has deployed 2 000 peacekeeping troops to the strife-torn and deeply impoverished former colony, while the UN Security Council voted in April to send 12 000 additional peacekeepers to try and contain the fighting.
The Seleka seized power in a coup in March 2013, ousting the president and installing Michel Djotodia as head of state.
He resigned last January, giving way to a transitional regime. Since then many Seleka forces have gone rogue, killing, raping and looting civilians.
The violence lead to a backlash with the emergence of anti-balaka (anti-machete) forces, primarily targeting the Muslim minority, and forcing many to flee from their homes.
Both sides have been accused of committing widespread atrocities, and a number of tortured and mutilated bodies have been found in conflict-hit areas.