• France's news in English

French troops out in force in CAR capital

AFP/The Local · 27 Dec 2013, 17:41

Published: 27 Dec 2013 17:41 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Heavy patrols of armoured vehicles and French soldiers could be seen in Bangui, where more than 1,000 people are believed to have been killed in three weeks of unrest.

The Red Cross has said it recovered some 100 bodies in Bangui, including 20 in a mass grave, amid increased fighting this week between Christians and Muslims.

A combined force of 1,600 French troops and 4,000 African union soldiers are struggling to contain the violence, which has wracked the majority Christian country since a March coup by the mostly Muslim Seleka rebels who installed Michel Djotodia as president.

Last week, France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced that France, which has led the military intervention, would "soon" have military support from other European countries, however he did not specify which countries would send troops.

SEE ALSO: African intervention gives Hollande needed boost

Automatic gunfire rattled central Bangui and tracer fire marked the sky overnight on Friday, and shots could be heard form the presidential palace and a nearby military camp.

Presidential spokesman Guy-Simplice Kodegue said the shooting was the result of a misunderstanding between Seleka fighters and troops from the African MISCA force.

A source with MISCA said two Congolese police had been killed in the shooting but provided no further details.

Two Chadian citizens were also wounded by stray gunfire at their nearby embassy, a diplomatic source said.

Confusion reigned in the capital, where heavy fighting sparked panic on Wednesday and sent thousands fleeing for shelter at the airport, the base for French and African forces.

"I'm not even trying to understand what's happening," a shopkeeper in central Bangui said.

"The shooting starts, I hide. The shooting stops, I come out. Then it starts again and I hide again."

At least one civilian was killed and several children wounded Friday when Chadian soldiers threw grenades into a crowd, military and humanitarian sources said.

A military source said the soldiers had been faced with angry demonstrators gathered along a road as they drove by with escaping Chadians.

Soldiers from mainly Muslim Chad have been accused of siding with Seleka forces and the AU has said they will redeploy outside the capital to avoid tensions.

The accusations have been fanned by several incidents, including one on Monday when Burundian troops in the AU force said Chadian soldiers opened fire on them as they were disarming former rebels.

Story continues below…

The same day, Chadian peacekeepers fired on a stone-throwing crowd of mostly Christian protesters, killing one man and wounding around 40 more.

Much of the unrest has been blamed on Christian militias carrying out revenge attacks on Muslims after months of abuses by ex-Seleka rebels.

Some 600 French troops were deployed in two flashpoint neighbourhoods on Thursday in a bid to prevent further violence.

French troops and African Union soldiers are trying to restore order in the chronically unstable country after receiving a UN mandate in early December.

The violence is estimated to have forced more than 700,000 people from their homes across the country -- including more than 200,000 in Bangui alone.

The country's top Muslim and Catholic clerics have jointly called for extra peacekeepers to be deployed, while US Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington is "alarmed" by the rise in fighting.

AFP/The Local (sophie.inge@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
A market in Eymet, southwestern France. Photo: AFP

Foreigners in France explain how life has changed over the years.

London calling for Calais youths, but only a chosen few
Photo: AFP

Dozens of Calais minors are still hanging their hopes on help from the UK, but not all will be so lucky.

17 different ways to talk about sex in French
Photo: Helga Weber/Flickr

Fancy a quick run with the one-legged man?

Yikes! This is what a rat-infested French jail looks like
Photo: YouTube/France Bleu TV.

This video is not for sufferers of ratophobia (or musophobia as the condition is officially called).

France to allow Baby Jesus in Town Halls this Christmas
Photo: AFP

Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus are safe to go on display again this year, it seems.

National Front posts locations of migrants in French town
The National Front courts controversy. Photo: AFP

"Local tax payers have a right to know," says local far-right party chief.

Paris thieves use tear gas to steal €500,000 of watches
Photo: AFP

The thieves pretended to be couriers then threatened staff with tear gas to get the watches.

Bataclan survivor recounts attack in chilling drawings
Photo: BFMTV screengrab

One survivor has recounted the horrific night through illustrations.

Anger among French police grows as Hollande vows talks
French police demonstrate on the Champs Elysées. Photo: AFP

A fourth night of protests shows government efforts to ease anger among French police have been fruitless.

UK border must move back, says 'next French president'
Photo: AFP

If favourite Alain Juppé is elected, Britain and France are in for some difficult negotiations.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
The ups and downs of being both French and English
How Brexit vote has changed life for expats in France
Twelve French insults we'd love to have in English
What's on in France: Ten of the best events in October
jobs available