BANGUI, Central African Republic - The Red Cross said Thursday it had recovered some 40 bodies on the streets of Bangui as the United States expressed alarm at the latest eruption of fighting in the Central African Republic.
French troops have beefed up patrols after a bloody Christmas in the strife-torn capital, where more than 1,000 are believed to have been killed in three weeks of conflict between Christians and Muslims.
Five Chadian peacekeepers were also killed in an outbreak of heavy fighting on Wednesday which sent thousands of panicked residents fleeing for shelter at the airport, where French and African peacekeepers are based.
United States Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington was "alarmed" by the fighting in recent days and urged the country to move quickly to hold elections.
"The continued sectarian fighting only deepens the country's wounds and makes reconciliation more difficult," Kerry said in a statement, adding the US was "deeply disturbed" by the discovery of 20 bodies in a mass grave in the capital Thursday.
It was not clear if these figures were included in the death toll given by the Red Cross which said it had recovered 40 bodies since Wednesday.
"Around 40 bodies have been recovered for the moment, and first aid has been given to around 30 people wounded," International Committee of the Red Cross spokesman David Pierre Marquet said in Geneva.
He said another 60 or so bodies were recovered on Monday, a day marked by escalating tensions after African peacekeepers fired into a crowd of protesters.