France Takes ‘Immediate’ Military Action amid CAR Clashes
Paris- A French-led military operation to protect civilians in the Central African Republic is being launched “immediately”, after scores died in fresh sectarian fighting on Thursday. A contingent of 650 troops there will be “doubled within a few days, if not a few hours,” President Hollande said.
Earlier the UN Security Council voted to allow French troops to join an African peacekeeping force in the CAR. Violence there has raised fears of mass killings along sectarian lines. “I have decided to act immediately, in other words, this evening,” Francois Hollande said.
Mr Hollande said the French role would be different to the one mounted in Mali, where French troops hunted down Islamist militants in the desert. This time they will be the “gendarme” – the thin blue line between order and chaos, says the BBC’s Christian Fraser in Paris. CAR Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye welcomed the move, and said the immediate priority was to re-establish security in the capital, Bangui.
However, he warned that “when it’s necessary to plan securing the country’s other regions, this number of troops will be insufficient”. Bangui was attacked on Thursday, reportedly by militias loyal to Francois Bozize, who was ousted as president by rebels in March, plunging the country into chaos. One hundred people were confirmed killed, Amy Martin from the UN in Bangui told the BBC.
A government curfew came into effect at 18:00 local time (17:00 GMT) but sporadic gunfire could still be heard, Ms Martin said. The BBC’s Andrew Harding, in Bangui, reported seeing many people lying wounded in the halls of a hospital. Our correspondent says violence in the CAR is increasingly pitting Christians against Muslims. (BBC)