France has announced plans to increase its 1,600-strong military deployment in the Central African Republic by sending an additional 400 soldiers, as political and sectarian unrest continues to tear apart the African country .
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said France is also asking the European Union to speed up deployment of a promised 500 troops to the troubled country.
"Europe has decided to intervene and, right now as we speak, there is a pooling of forces that is being done and in which we ask each country how many troops or what kind of support it can bring. This work is not finished yet but already some countries have announced their contribution. For example, yesterday, our Polish friends have announced that they will send 150 soldiers," said Fabius.
Human rights groups have warned of mass sectarian killings in the CAR, amid reports that militias known as anti-Balaka are killing Muslims and chasing them from their homes and neighborhoods.
On Friday, thousands of Muslims tried to flee Bangui in a long convoy, but were turned back by international peacekeepers who feared it would be attacked traveling through volatile parts of the capital, Bangui.
Also Friday, prosecutors in the CAR say they have discovered a mass grave in Bangui with at least 13 bodies in it. They say the grave was discovered in a camp housing former fighters of the mostly Muslim Seleka rebel group.
Speaking in New York Friday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the fabric of society is being ripped apart in the CAR, and said the international community must act decisively to, in his words, prevent the worst.
The new troops will boost France\’s contingent in the CAR to about 2,000. The French troops are working alongside about 5,000 African troops to stem violence in the capital, Bangui.
The troops have been unable to halt fighting in other towns. On Thursday, Doctors Without Borders reported that about 1,000 Muslims were trapped and being threatened by militiamen in the western town of Carnot.
The CAR descended into chaos after mainly Muslim Seleka rebels overthrew the president last March and went on a nationwide rampage of killing and looting. The Christian and animist anti-Balaka groups that sprung up in response have gone on the offensive, forcing Seleka to retreat.
Ban said he would present recommendations to the U.N. Security Council Tuesday for "containing and then ending" the CAR crisis.
Source: VOA and agencies