The UN mission in the restive African country says bodies were found in the central town of Alindao after armed groups clashed.

UN peacekeepers from Congo Brazaville walk in the PK5 district in Bangui, Central African Republic, February 13, 2016.
UN peacekeepers from Congo Brazaville walk in the PK5 district in Bangui, Central African Republic, February 13, 2016. (AP)

At least 37 bodies were found on Friday in the central town of Alindao after clashes between armed groups, the UN mission in the perennially restive Central African Republic (CAR) said.

"Thirty-seven deaths confirmed in Alindao," said a report seen by AFP news agency. 

An earlier report spoke of seven deaths in clashes on Thursday when Christian militiamen known as anti-balaka killed Muslims, prompting revenge attacks in which a priest was killed and a church torched.

"Four Muslims were killed Thursday morning" by Christian militia fighters, and "three people died" in a separate attack by the Union for Peace in CAR (UPC), a UN source said.

UPC is a faction of the former Muslim-majority Seleka rebel alliance.

A priest was among those who died in the clashes, and another has been missing since, according to a church source in capital Bangui.

Vladimir Monteiro, spokesman for the UN peacekeeping mission Minusca, also confirmed the incidents, telling AFP that Christian militiamen known as anti-balaka had killed Muslims and an hour later, "the UPC responded by attacking a camp for displaced people" in Alindao.

The church of Alindao and a part of the camp were burnt, he added.

Hundreds displaced

"Part of the population fled. Hundreds of displaced people have found shelter at Minusca's forward operating base" in the region.

Long a UPC stronghold, Alindao has witnessed chronic fighting in recent months that has also killed two UN soldiers and a humanitarian aid worker.

One of the world's poorest nations despite a rich supply of diamonds and uranium, the CAR has struggled to recover from a 2013 civil war that erupted when President Francois Bozize, a Christian, was overthrown by mainly Muslim Seleka rebels.

Since then, the country of 4.5 million people has been blighted by simmering sectarian violence which has killed thousands.

Source: AFP