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France, AU, Boosting Troop Presence in CAR



France says several thousand more foreign troops will go to the Central African Republic (CAR), where fighting by armed groups has left scores dead.

On Saturday, France unexpectedly announced plans to raise its military presence in its former colony to 1,600 troops, 400 more than originally planned.

French officials say the African Union will nearly double its peacekeeping force, known as MISCA, to 6,000 troops.

French President Francois Hollande said Saturday that his country's forces will remain in the region "as long as necessary."

He commented at the end of a Paris summit with African leaders.



At the summit, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon called for urgent measures to end the CAR's escalating violence.

On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council authorized France to boost its troop presence in the former French colony.

The Reuters news agency says Red Cross relief workers have collected the bodies of nearly 400 victims in the capital, Bangui, since Thursday.

The French force, which had been patrolling Bangui, has begun deploying to western and northern parts of the country.



In a VOA interview , French defense ministry spokesman Gilles Jarron said some soldiers had parachuted into Bangui. He said other troops had crossed into the CAR from Gabon and neighboring Cameroon.

Thousands of cheering CAR residents were on hand Saturday to greet French forces arriving from Cameroon.

Despite the increased French presence, violence was reported in the capital Saturday.

Thousands of residents have sought shelter at the Bangui airport, which is under French control. Many others have taken refuge in churches.

The group Doctors Without Borders says medical facilities in Bangui have been overloaded with wounded patients. Saturday the organization said many of the patients had been shot or injured in machete or knife attacks.

The CAR spiraled downward into chaos and violence after the rebel Seleka movement seized power in March, ousting President Francois Bozize.

President Michel Djotodia's weak interim government has been unable to exert control over mostly Muslim ex-Seleka fighters, who are blamed for a surge in murders and other crimes.

The mostly Christian armed opposition group known as the anti-Balaka has been contributing to the violence.

The CAR has endured decades of instability since winning independence from France in 1960.

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