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Central African Republic Militia to Lay Down Arms

FILE - 'Anti-Balaka' fighters stand for a photo in Boda, Central African Republic, Aug. 28, 2014.

A Christian militia in the Central African Republic says it will lay down its weapons and become a political movement.

A senior official of the 'anti-Balaka' armed group announced late Saturday that from now on, the militia will only fight through political means. He said any member who carries out an attack will be brought to justice.

The new movement will be renamed the Central African Party for Unity and Development.

The Central African Republic has been rocked by violence since the mostly Muslim Seleka rebel coalition ousted the government of President François Bozizé, which it said had committed abuses against Muslims in the northeast.

Widespread human rights abuses committed by Seleka led to the formation of the anti-Balaka Christian militia, unleashing sectarian fighting that has forced hundreds of thousands of Muslim civilians to flee to neighboring countries.

France has deployed troops and an African peacekeeping force was beefed up and transformed into a United Nations mission to try to stem the sectarian violence.