France Deploys Troops to Chaotic Central African Republic

More than 100 dead, some bodies rotting in the streets following Muslim, Christian clashes.

French 'Puma' helicopters prepare to land at a French military base camp on Dec. 6, 2013, in Cameroon. The European Union has unblocked 50 million euros ($68 million) to support the French military operation in the Central African Republic.
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Civil unrest and chaos continues to thrive amid clashes between Christian and Muslim groups in the Central African Republic, where bodies rot in the streets and where France is planning for its fourth military peacekeeping incursion in two years into one of its former African colonies.

[READ: Thousands Flee in Fear to Central African Republic's Main Airport]

The capital city of Bangui is teetering on the edge of all-out anarchy with more than 100 dead, reports the Associated Press, following a coup in March that began eating away at civil society. Roughly 600 French troops are on the ground, with the possibility of as many as 600 more in the coming days. Hundreds flocked to the airport hoping for evacuation.

 

Locals cheered as a fighter jet roared over Bangui, according to an AP dispatch. Helicopters, airborne units and armored vehicles are likely also on their way. But France remains reluctant to be drawn into yet another prolonged war.

"You have to secure, you have to disarm," Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French defense minister, told Radio France Internationale. "You have to ensure that the vandals, the bandits, the militias know they can't use the streets of Bangui for their battles."

Clashes on Thursday left more than 100 dead. Red Cross workers dared not collect the bodies lying on the street outside Parliament for fear of being shot themselves.

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Thousands of armed Islamic extremists stormed Bangui in March, accounting for much of the initial violence. Attempts at arms reduction has done little to stem the steady flow of weapons throughout the region.

The French military occupied significant headline space roughly a year ago for its deployment to Mali. Special operations troops led a wave of conventional forces into the arid West African nation to beat back an Islamic insurgency that spread southward from its northern stronghold. Since 2011, France has also deployed troops to Ivory Coast and on a joint mission in Libya with a coalition of countries including the U.S. and the U.K. The AP has more details on France's role as Africa's policeman.

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