French peacekeepers have helped restore calm to parts of the Central African Republic’s capital on Thursday after a day of chaos.
Heavy fighting on Wednesday claimed the lives of six soldiers from Chad who were part of the African Union mission.
They had been attacked by largely Christian “anti-balaka” militia who accuse the Chadian forces of supporting mostly Muslim Seleka rebels, something Chad strongly denies.
In a Christian neighbourhood of the capital houses are deserted after Muslim forces attacked.
One woman said she came out of her house to confront them. “I’d prefer it if they killed me and left my grandchildren and my daughter. I came out with my hands up. They said ‘it’s our mother, leave her alone’,” she added.
The Christian Archbishop of Bangui, Mgr Dieudonné Nzapalainga, and the leader of the Muslim community Omar Kobine Layama, wrote an article in Le Monde newspaper calling on the UN to deploy a peacekeeping force urgently.
Despite progress made by the French troops sent to support African forces, they argue more are needed. The country is on the verge of a religious war, they say, and a bigger international response is required to stop it “plunging into darkness”.
In Morocco, a ceremony was held in Agadir for hundreds of troops ahead of their deployment to the Central African Republic.
Morocco’s King Mohammed VI – who discussed the crisis by telephone with the French President François Hollande earlier this week – has said he wants Morocco to play an active role in stopping the spiral of violence.