French troops to res­cue af­ter CAR car­nage

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - WORLD -

BAN­GUI, Cen­tral African Repub­lic: French mil­i­tary re­in­force­ments rum­bled into the CAR yes­ter­day to quell vi­o­lence in the cap­i­tal, a day af­ter Chris­tian fight­ers raided Mus­lim neigh­bour­hoods.

There was no re­peat of the clashes in Ban­gui that left nearly 100 peo­ple dead the day be­fore, said French De­fence Min­is­ter Jean-Yves Le Drian.

France be­gan send­ing re­in­force­ments within hours of the UN vote au­tho­ris­ing its troops to try to sta­bilise the coun­try.

Scores died in Thurs­day’s at­tack, in­clud­ing 48 peo­ple whose bod­ies were laid out at a mosque. Doc­tors With­out Bor­ders said another 50 deaths had been con­firmed.

France has cau­tioned that its aims are lim­ited – to bring a min­i­mum of se­cu­rity to a cap­i­tal where peo­ple now fear to leave their homes, and to sup­port an African-led force.

“You have to en­sure that the van­dals, the ban­dits, the mili­tias know they can’t use the streets of Ban­gui for their bat­tles,” said Le Drian.

Some of those killed on Thurs­day died of bul­let wounds, oth­ers from ma­chete (bal­aka) blows. The Chris­tian mili­tia adopted the moniker “anti-bal­aka” in ref­er­ence to prior at­tacks on Chris­tians.

Rebel leader- turned- pres­i­dent Michel Djo­to­dia ap­pealed for calm, even as his res­i­dence and that of the prime min­is­ter were looted and van­dalised by the fight­ers. He an­nounced a dusk-to-dawn cur­few.

“This morn­ing the en­e­mies of Cen­tral African Repub­lic wanted to desta­bilise the coun­try but they have failed,” Djo­to­dia an­nounced.

France al­ready has hun­dreds of sol­diers in Ban­gui, and mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles pa­trolled the streets.

Le Drian said a he­li­copter de­tach­ment was ar­riv­ing, along with more troops.

Djo­to­dia, the cur­rent ruler, who is Mus­lim, man­aged to unify sev­eral rebel groups in the mostly Mus­lim north, where re­sent­ment of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and a sense of dis­en­fran­chise­ment has been rife for years. Once the Seleka rebels were un­leashed upon the cap­i­tal, he wielded very lit­tle con­trol over the mix of bush fight­ers, child sol­diers and for­eign mer­ce­nar­ies he had re­cruited along the way.

Be­fore long, hu­man rights groups were doc­u­ment­ing cases of Seleka rebels go­ing door to door with ma­chetes, blud­geon­ing their vic­tims and burn­ing down scores of homes.

Sup­port­ers of the ousted pres­i­dent be­gan ris­ing up in op­po­si­tion to the law­less and ruth­less rebels, form­ing self­de­fence mili­tias. Thurs­day’s at­tack demon­strates that th­ese fight­ers are more than vengeance- seek­ing civil­ians with hunt­ing ri­fles. – Sapa-AP

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