Red Cross says CAR death toll exceeds 500

Sectarian violence continues in the country as freshly deployed French forces try to disarm militias.

    Aid officials in Central African Republic has said that more than 500 people have been killed over the past week in sectarian fighting.

    Violence between Muslims and Christians have been going on in the country, where France has around 1,600 troops after its recent deployment, acting with the African Union-led forces on the ground.  

    Antoine Mbao Bogo with the local Red Cross said late Tuesday that aid workers have collected 461 bodies across the capital of Bangui since Thursday. That figure does not include the scores of Muslim victims whose bodies were brought to mosques for burial.

    French forces are trying to disarm militias awash in automatic weapons in cities and towns, where would-be fighters are tough to distinguish from civilians.

    Francois Hollande, the French president, accompanied by his Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, visited on Tuesday the violence-hit country, where two French soldiers were recently killed while carrying out operations against militias in Bangui.

    Addressing French troops on the ground, he said that France's intervention in CAR is dangerous but "necessary" to avoid a bloodbath.

    The French campaign to pacify its former colony is "necessary if one wants to avoid carnage here", Hollande said in his first remarks.

    More violence

    Muslim leaders said on Wednesday that at least four men had been killed by French forces during disarmament efforts in the last several days, according to Associated Press news agency.

    Nazanine Moshiri blogs from CAR

    Bangui: Waiting for the next big battle
    Inside Bangui, a deserted city
    Hyped-up contact group meeting on CAR
    Uncovering a massacre in CAR

    Follow Nazanine on Twitter:
    @NazanineMoshiri

    A mob of young men set fire to a mosque in the Fou neighbourhood of the capital on Tuesday. Smoke billowed from smoldering vehicles nearby, and young men used pick axes and whatever tools they could find to try to tear down the walls of the mosque. 

    The fighting in the former French colony is between the mainly Muslim Seleka rebels - originally from neighbouring Chad and Sudan - and the Christian anti-Balaka whose name means "anti-machete", the weapon of choice for Seleka.

    The Christian fighters oppose the Muslim ex-rebels in charge of the CAR since March.

    Michel Djotodia, rebel leader-turned interim president, has largely lost control of his loose band of fighters, who ended up being disbanded.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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