In New York the 15 member UN Security Council has given French troops the green light to help restore order in Central African Republic. French President François Hollande is expected to send soldiers within hours.
Up to 80 bodies were counted on Thursday in a mosque in Bangui and on the streets after a day of violence which began at dawn.
In a speech broadcast on radio early on Thursday afternoon, Central African president Michel Djotodia announced an immediate extension of tonight's curfew, which will now last from 6.00 pm until 6.00 am local time.
Several media in the Central African Republic blamed the violence on "anti-balaka" Christian militias and supporters of ousted president François Bozizé.
Since Bozizé was deposed by a disparate but predominantly Muslim group, the Séléka, the country has been in the grip of violent clashes between Muslim and Christian communities.
"At around 3.00 am local time, there were clashes between former Séléka fighters and unidentified armed elements ... French forces were forced to intervene", Colonel Gilles Jaron of the French army explained.
"The sound of automatic gunfire and heavy weapons broke out just before dawn in several areas of the capital. The shots first started in the PK-12 zone in the north of Bangui and then spread to other districts, especially to the town centre, the area near the river," he said.
Around 250 French soldiers are deployed in Bangui from their base at the airport, with the aim of "securing sensitive areas" and grouping foreigners into safety according to Jaron.
The UN Security Council vote authorises France, the former colonial power, to launch operation "Sangaris". It will deploy around 1200 troops to help Misca, the African Force already in CAF, to try to restore order to the country.