Witnesses say several hundred Muslim rebels have left the capital of Central African Republic and are now heading back to the country's north about eight months after they were forced from power.

Authorities say 239 men and their families left Bangui out of about 2,200 who are believed to still be living in the capital.

Maj. Flavien Mulume with the African peacekeeping mission acknowledged it remains unclear what will be done with the rebels who chose not to leave Monday.

The Muslim rebels were blamed for scores of atrocities against civilians during their 10-month rule and their continued presence has been a flashpoint for sectarian fighting.

Christian militants have retaliated against Muslim civilians in the aftermath of the rebels' rule, forcing tens of thousands to flee north.