The International Criminal Court has started an investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Central African Republic.
The announcement came on Friday as thousands of Muslims fled Bangui, the capital, in a convoy of 500 vehicles guarded by soldiers from neighbouring Chad.
One man who fell from a truck was reportedly killed and his body mutilated, highlighting the savagery faced by those who stayed behind.
Fatou Bensouda, the prosecutor for the ICC, said the situation for civilians in the country has “gone from bad to worse” since September 2012, and she has recently received reports of “extreme brutality by various groups”.
Christian and Muslim militias have been clashing in the country, which is already the subject of a previous investigation by Ms Bensouda's office stemming from the period before 2004.
Fighting in the country has worsened and taken on an increasingly sectarian nature since March 2013, when a peace deal and power sharing agreement between Muslim rebels from the north and the previous government broke down.
In December, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said that more than 600 people have been killed and a million displaced, with the country in danger of spinning into genocide. Since that report the situation has quickly worsened.
Recent weeks have seen escalating violence in the capital, prompting a huge exodus of refugees into neighbouring countries.
Ms Bensouda said the incidents she is investigating ”include hundreds of killings, acts of rape and sexual slavery, destruction of property, pillaging, torture, forced displacement and recruitment and use of children in hostilities”.
She added that “in many incidents, victims appear to have been deliberately targeted on religious grounds”.
Additional reporting by AP and Reuters