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Fresh Violence in the CAR; Death Toll Rises



There are fresh reports of violence in the Central African Republic, as the death toll from two days of fighting has risen to nearly 300 people.

Joanna Mariner works for Amnesty International in the CAR capital, Bangui. She tells VOA that gunmen linked to the rebel coalition that overthrew President Francois Bozize in March are carrying out deadly raids in the capital.



"Groups of government forces, what are known as the ex-Seleka, who were the armed group that took power in March, mostly going door to door looking for members of the armed opposition group known as the anti-Balaka. But also just really taking advantage of the situation and pillaging, going from door to door, knocking down people's doors, breaking into the house, pillaging and killing people fairly indiscriminately."



Mariner says the level of violence Friday was not as high as it was on Thursday.

The Red Cross says its workers have collected the bodies of 281 people following two days of violence. Red Cross officials say staff had to stop working when night fell on Friday. They say the expect the death toll will rise when they resume their work on Saturday.

More French troops arrived in CAR Friday after the U.N. Security Council authorized the deployment of more foreign troops to help restore order.



U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's office says the latest reports from the CAR are "grim."

In a Friday statement, Mr. Ban's office says the reports indicate a "deepening conflict between Muslim and Christian communities and armed groups, with tragic consequences."

Ex-Seleka fighters are mostly Muslim, while the the anti-Balaka fighters mostly Christian.

The U.N. says it has received reports that adults and children were killed after elements of both sides raided homes. It says it has also received reports that indicated hundreds of homes were burned in the western town of Bossangoa

France is expected to double its force in the country to 1,200 troops. An African Union stabilization force, known as MISCA, is expected to increase from 2,500 troops to 3,600.

European powers have announced plans to send additional support to the CAR. Britain announced plans on Friday to send military equipment to the CAR to help France with its effort.

The CAR spiraled downward into chaos and violence after the rebel movement Seleka took power eight months ago.

The weak interim government was unable to exert control over the rebel fighters, who were blamed for a surge in murder, rape, robbery and auto theft.

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

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