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Looting in CAR Capital as New President Sworn In

  • VOA News

A young anti-Balaka Christian militiaman carrying a machete walks by French soldiers taking part in 'Operation Sangaris' and standing guard at the PK 12 crossroad in Bangui, Jan. 23, 2014.

A young anti-Balaka Christian militiaman carrying a machete walks by French soldiers taking part in 'Operation Sangaris' and standing guard at the PK 12 crossroad in Bangui, Jan. 23, 2014.

Witnesses report heavy looting in the Central African Republic's capital Thursday as the country's new interim president took office.

Reporter Nick Long, who is in Bangui, tells VOA that thousands of people looted houses in PK13, a predominantly Muslim suburb.

He says Rwandan peacekeepers chased away the looters but that looting resumed when the peacekeepers left to guard the swearing-in ceremony.

Newly parliamentary-elected interim President of the Central African Republic Catherine Samba-Panza walks into the National Assembly prior to her swearing-in ceremony in the capital Bangui, Jan. 23, 2014.

Newly parliamentary-elected interim President of the Central African Republic Catherine Samba-Panza walks into the National Assembly prior to her swearing-in ceremony in the capital Bangui, Jan. 23, 2014.

The CAR's new interim president, Catherine Samba-Panza, appealed for calm this week ahead of her inauguration, held in the parliament Thursday.

The new president - the former mayor of Bangui - will face massive challenges after more than a year of political unrest and inter-religious violence in the country.

The United Nations estimates thousands have been killed in the CAR over the past year, and nearly a million displaced from their homes.

That number includes an estimated 500,000 in Bangui alone.

CAR Interim President Catherine Samba-Panza

  • 59 years old
  • Born in Chad to Chadian father and Central African mother
  • Former businesswoman
  • Named Bangui mayor in 2013 after rebels toppled president
  • Elected interim president by CAR transitional council Jan. 20, 2014
  • CAR's first female president
French and African peacekeepers patrolling the capital have been largely unable to halt the violence. On Wednesday, Amnesty International warned of an upsurge of attacks against Muslims by the mostly Christian "anti-Balaka" militia groups.

The country descended into chaos after the mostly-Muslim Seleka rebels toppled President Francois Bozize last March.

Interim leader Michel Djotodia resigned January 10 under pressure from regional leaders because of his failure to stabilize the country.

Samba-Panza was chosen as interim president Monday by the CAR's transitional parliament. She is due to stay in office until national elections can be organized next year.

Images from the Central African Republic

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