French President Francois Hollande has announced that his country will double its troop contingent in the Central African Republic following reports that around 100 people were killed there Thursday in renewed sectarian violence.
Speaking from the Elysee Palace, President Hollande said that the French 600 troops already in the country could be doubled within days, perhaps even hours.
At least 98 people were killed in the capital Bangui in clashes between Christian militias and Muslim rebels. Earlier Thursday, the United Nations Security Council unanimously authorized France and the African Union to strengthen their forces in the CAR, in hopes of restoring calm.
A movement allied to former CAR president Francois Bozize has claimed responsibility for attacks around the capital.
Lin Banoukepa, who heads a pro-Bozize movement known as FROCCA, tells VOA that fighters are attempting to oust the rebels who toppled Bozize back in March.
Speaking by telephone from Paris, he said the fighters are striving to "restore the constitutional order, the constitution and elected officials in their duties." He says Francois Bozize is the president and not a rebel leader. He goes on to say when the Seleka rebels are out, FROCCA will restore the rule of law and restore Francois Bozize.
The AU stabilization force in the Central African Republic, known as MISCA, is expected to bolster its presence from about 2,500 troops to 3,600. They will be supported by the French force, numbering about 1,200.
The CAR spiraled downward 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.
U.N. officials have warned the violence has taken on a sectarian tone, with the mostly Muslim Seleka fighters battling mostly Christian defense groups known as "anti-balaka."
In his interview with VOA, Banoukepa said the anti-balaka are Central Africans who want to free the country from "jihadists" who he said came from Sudan and Chad.
The CAR has endured decades of instability since winning independence from France in 1960.