BANGUI: Violence near the northern border of Central African Republican has forced thousands of people to flock to the tiny town of Paoua, the Red Cross said Wednesday.
About 11,000 people have found refuge in the northwestern townlet since fighting between various armed groups intensified last month near CAR's northern border with Chad, said spokeswoman Sylvie Pellet.
"Many surrounding villages have been emptied" and the displaced have found shelter with families or at the health centre, Pellet said.
Before these recent clashes, the situation in the area was "relatively calm," she added.
Mired in poverty but rich in minerals, the former French colony has been battered by a three-year conflict between rival militias that began after then-president Francois Bozize was overthrown.
Thousands of people have been killed in the fighting. According to the UN, more than a million people have fled their homes and 2.4 million people -- more than half of the Central African population -- are in need of emergency food aid.
The country has seen an upsurge in violence since France shut down its Sangaris mission there last year, but the UN Security Council agreed in November to extend a peacekeeping mission, MINUSCA,
for a year and beef up the mission with 900 extra troops.