World Bulletin / News Desk
International Criminal Court prosecutors have opened an investigation into allegations of murder, rape and recruiting of child soldiers in the Central African Republic over the past two years.
Both sides in the conflict appeared to have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, said a report issued by the court on Wednesday.
"The list of atrocities is endless," prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said.
Central African Republic, a landlocked nation of 4.6 million people, has slid into chaos since Seleka rebels, many of them from neighbouring Chad and Sudan, ousted President Francois Bozize in March last year.
The Seleka rebels were forced to step down in January but still occupy much of the north of the former French colony.
Without naming any suspects, prosecutors said in a statement that there was clear evidence that Seleka forces had targeted civilians, especially since 2013.
The mainly Christian anti-balaka forces opposing them had appeared systematically to target the Muslim population, who were accused of supporting Seleka rebels.
The alleged crimes include murder, rape, persecution, pillage, attacks on humanitarian missions and the use of child soldiers.
Investigators must now gather evidence that could lead to charges being filed against individuals suspected of having committed serious crimes, a process that has taken many years in the past.
The ICC, set up 11 years ago to prosecute the most serious international crimes, has eight investigations open, all of them in Africa, and has been accused of targeting the continent - a charge prosecutors deny, saying the continent is the site of some of the world's worst atrocities.
In 2008, prosecutors charged Congolese politician Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo with crimes against humanity and war crimes committed when forces under his command invaded the Central African Republic in 2002. He is currently on trial.
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