Seleka fighters in Central African Republic
Seleka fighters targeted refugees in Kaga Bandoro, north of capital Bangui REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

At least 23 people were killed in the Central African Republic (CAR) in an attack by the country's Muslim Seleka militia on Wednesday (12 October). The casualties included 13 refugees, who were stabbed or hacked to death, and 10 members from the rebel group who were put down by UN peacekeepers, officials said.

The central African nation has experienced chaos since early 2013 when the Seleka rebels toppled then-president François Bozize's government. The majority Christian "anti-Balaka" militias responded by attacking Muslims, setting off a cycle of violence.

According to Reuters, a witness saw militiamen stabbing two refugees to death. The militiamen were reportedly armed with guns and started firing at the refugees when some of them tried to fight back.

The attack was targeted at refugees in Kaga Bandoro, a market town in the country's remote area, 245 km (152.2 miles) north of the capital Bangui.

Several people were also injured in the attack as hundreds of panicked villagers fled towards a UN base for protection.

"We were in the house when suddenly the Seleka arrived and set it on fire," said witness Marcelline Kanga, 40. "They killed my uncle and stabbed my brother to death right there."

Another witness, 48-year-old Yongon Samson, said he saw a body with the head sliced off as he was running for his life.

A UN official said troops from the peacekeeping mission, Minusca, had to open fire to drive the rebels out and protect the civilians.

The violence in the CAR has reportedly left nearly one-fifth of its population displaced as it reels from deep divisions along ethnic and religious lines. According to the UN's refugee agency, more than half the population is still in dire need of humanitarian aid.