France say it’s UN-backed military operation is underway in the Central
African Republic (CAR).
The former French colony has slipped into chaos since mainly Muslim rebels seized power in March. That’s led to tit-for-tat sectarian violence with the Christian majority.
French forces will initially focus on securing the capital Bangui and roads leading to neighbouring Chad and Cameroon.
Many local defence groups have sprung up in response to abuses carried out by former Seleka rebels.
One local woman told euronews:
“We can’t stay in the neighbourhood any longer. The Seleka are looking for us. They kill children, men, and even women. They don’t forgive anybody. We’re here to be protected by France, we won’t move. We will stay here,” she said.
Nearly 200 people were killed in the fighting this week. Many were clubbed or hacked to death.
The head of one aid team said the true number of victims was unknown as it was impossible to venture out.
Dozens of wounded have been treated in hospital including women and children.
The violence threatens to escalate into widespread civilian massacres.
UN officials warn that CAR is at risk of spiraling into genocide. The United Nations estimates that 400,000 people have fled their homes to escape the fighting.