French army battles militias in Central African Republic’s capital

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has authorized military transport aircraft to carry troops to the country from Burundi to support the French-led effort, a Pentagon spokesman said.

The French army said it has restored some stability in the capital of Central African Republic after battling gunmen on Monday in an operation to disarm rival Muslim and Christian fighters responsible for killing hundreds since last week.

Shooting erupted near Bangui’s airport in the morning when gunmen refused to hand over weapons and French forces later came under attack by former rebels in the city center, but by evening there were no armed groups on the streets, the army said.

“There are no more patrols by armed groups in the city and the population is no longer threatened by the terror that these groups caused,” said Colonel Gilles Jaron, spokesman for the French army joint staff in Paris.

“The spike in violence has gone down and we have returned to a more stable situation. We are still deployed in Bangui to carry out our mission,” Jaron said.

Paris boosted its military presence to 1,600 troops over the weekend as waves of religious violence swept its former colony.

At least 465 people have been killed in Bangui alone since Thursday, according to Red Cross officials.


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