The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court says she has opened a preliminary investigation into potential war crimes or crimes against humanity in Central African Republic.

Fatou Bensouda said Friday that 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 groups are clashing in the country, which was already the subject of a previous investigation by Bensouda's office in 2004.

The ICC, located in The Hague, Netherlands, was established in 2002 to investigate and punish atrocities.