BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has travelled to one of the most volatile towns in Central African Republic, where he thanked peacekeepers for their "extraordinary courage."

Nine United Nations peacekeepers have been killed so far this year in Bangassou, a town in the southeast where fighting has surged in recent months. Some 2,000 Muslim civilians are seeking refuge at the town's Catholic church, fearing attacks from Christian militias in the area.

Guterres praised the Moroccan and Cambodian peacekeepers in the area, saying they were protecting civilians under "very, very difficult circumstances."

Wednesday marked the second day of Guterres' visit to Central African Republic. The U.N. chief has said he hopes the trip highlights the problems facing the country as intercommunal violence has risen to its highest levels since 2014.