Two armed groups who last year joined an agreement aimed at bringing peace to the Central African Republic have clashed in a key northeastern town, the UN said on Thursday.
"The deputy special representative of the United Nations secretary general, Denise Brown, has gone to the area" to assess the situation, the spokesperson for the UN peacekeeping mission Minusca, Vladimir Monteiro, told AFP.
The fighting broke out on Monday in Birao, a trading town located near the Sudan border, and continued on Tuesday.
Aid workers there, reached by AFP, said the town itself was calm on Thursday but its outskirts were extremely tense.
The clashes involved the Movement of the Movement of Central African Liberators for Justice (MLCJ) and the Popular Front for the Rebirth of the CAR (FPRC), which had been fighting sporadically over Birao since July.
Both groups joined other militias in Khartoum last February 6 to sign a peace agreement with the government.
Deeply impoverished despite its mineral wealth, the CAR has been in the grip of violence since 2013.
More than two-thirds of the former French colony lies in the hands of armed groups, who typically claim ethnic or religious affiliations and often fight over the country's mineral resources.
At least 20 people died in fighting in July, according to Minusca figures.
The violence prompted most of the town's inhabitants to shelter in a camp for displaced people located near a peacekeepers' base, aid workers said.
Violence resumed after tension brewed in the camp between the Kara ethnic group, from which the MLCJ is largely drawn, and the Sara and Hausa communities, accused of supporting the FPRC, they said.
On Monday, the CAR government in Bangui said the violence between armed groups in the northeast amounted to "flagrant violations" of the 2019 peace agreement.
According to the UN, 1.6 million out of the country's 4.7 million population are "extremely vulnerable."