New York - A top UN official warned on Friday that anarchy in the Central African Republic risks becoming "genocide" as armed Christian and Muslim groups battle each other.
The giant but impoverished nation has slid into lawlessness since rebels overthrew president Francois Bozize in March. France has called for a UN peacekeeping force to be deployed and is increasing its own military presence there.
Adama Dieng, a special advisor to UN leader Ban Ki-moon on the prevention of genocide, backed the call for UN peacekeepers to take over from a small African force and for the International Criminal Court to investigate.
"We are seeing armed groups killing people under the guise of their religion and my feeling is that this will end with Christian communities, Muslim communities killing each other," Dieng told reporters after an informal UN Security Council meeting on the crisis.
"If we don't act now and decisively I will not exclude the possibility of a genocide occuring in [the] Central African Republic," he added.
"African forces will not be sufficient," Dieng said. "The country has been totally destroyed. There is total chaos.
"We need to have, definitely, a UN peacekeeping on the ground to help."
Dieng said an independent commission should investigate "atrocity crimes" committed since March and the "ring leaders" should be taken to the ICC.
The UN official said he has spoken to ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and "she is determined to look into the Central African Republic case".
Brigitte Balipou, a judge in the country, said after the meeting: "We are crying out to the international community so that the Central African Republic does not become a forgotten conflict."
"There is chaos in the country. We cannot work. Only Bangui is secure for the moment."