Central African Republic names new prime minister

BANGUI Sat Jan 25, 2014 11:45am EST

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BANGUI Jan 25 (Reuters) - Central African Republic's new interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has named Andre Nzapayeke, a former official of the African Development Bank, as prime minister, state radio said on Saturday.

Samba-Panza, who took office two days ago, is seeking to build an interim government to restore order to the former French colony after months of sectarian violence that has left thousands dead or homeless.

The mineral-rich country descended into chaos last March when Muslim armed groups known as Seleka seized power in a coup, unleashing a wave of killing and looting.

That triggered revenge attacks by Christian militia known as anti-balaka, or anti-machete, and fighting has escalated in recent days despite the presence of about 1,600 French troops and 5,000 African Union peacekeepers.

A Muslim former minister was hacked to death by machete-wielding militiamen in Bangui on Friday. At least nine others were killed when bands of people, some of them Christian groups, attacked and looted shops in the mostly Muslim Miskine neighbourhood of the capital, witnesses said.

The violence has killed more than 2,000 since December, and forced about a million people - nearly a quarter of the population - to flee their homes. (Reporting by Paul-Marin Ngoupana; Writing by Emma Farge; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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