French launch C.African Republic mission but deaths mount

BANGUI, (Reuters) – France rushed troops to Central African Republic yesterday but violence between Muslim and Christian militias continued unabated, spiralling into widespread killings of civilians.

Hundreds of soldiers started arriving in CAR from neighbouring countries, hours after Paris was given a U.N. green light for the mission to restore order. French troops patrolled the main roads and warplanes flew low over town. But residents and rights groups reported waves of killings in neighbourhoods despite major gunbattles easing off. The Red Cross said it had collected 281 bodies from two days of violence in Bangui, but many more had been killed.

The former French colony has slipped into chaos since mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in March, leading to tit-for-tat violence with “anti-Balaka” militia formed by the Christian majority. The violence that began on Thursday was the worst the capital has seen during the crisis. “This horrific cycle of violence and retaliation must stop immediately,” a United Nations spokesperson said, citing cases of rival Seleka and “anti-Balaka” militias raiding homes and killing adults and children. “Civilians must be protected.”

In Paris, French President Francois Hollande told a meeting of African leaders that the CAR crisis proved the urgent need for the continent to create its own regional security force.

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