France to send 400 more troops to Central African Republic

PARIS Fri Feb 14, 2014 11:41am EST

French soldiers conduct a daytime patrol in a neighbourhood in Bangui, after shooting continued overnight in the capital, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Andreea Campeanu

French soldiers conduct a daytime patrol in a neighbourhood in Bangui, after shooting continued overnight in the capital, December 26, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Andreea Campeanu

PARIS (Reuters) - France plans to send an additional 400 troops to Central African Republic to help combat the violence in its former colony, the French government said on Friday.

Announcing the temporary increase to 2,000 troops, a statement from President Francois Hollande's office also urged other countries to show "increased solidarity" and called on the United Nations Security Council to accelerate the deployment of peacekeeping troops in the country.

About a quarter of the population has been displaced by fighting and at least 2,000 people have been killed in Central African Republic since the mostly Muslim Seleka rebel group seized power last March in the majority Christian country.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said earlier this week that sectarian violence was continuing to worsen in the landlocked country and that he was concerned it could spiral into genocide.

A top U.N. official warned on Wednesday of "ethnic-religious cleansing" as peacekeepers uncovered a mass grave at a military camp occupied by Seleka rebels in the capital Bangui.

Ban said he asked France to consider sending more troops since the international response to the crisis did "not yet match the gravity of the situation".

He told the Security Council in November a U.N. force of up to 9,000 troops and 1,700 police could be needed for Central African Republic, but that it could only be deployed if certain conditions were in place.

France sent 1,600 troops to the country in December to assist some 5,000 African Union peacekeepers. The European Union has also agreed to send around 500 troops with the aim of creating a safe haven in part of the capital.

(Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Mark John)

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