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France sends 350 troops to Central African Republic

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France has sent some 350 troops to the Central African Republic to counter the Seleka fighters, who have allegedly taken control of the capital city of Bangui.

According to a senior official who spoke on condition of anonymity on Sunday, some 150 French military personnel were dispatched from Libreville, the capital of Gabon, a day after 200 French troops arrived in Bangui.

This comes after fighters in the Central African Republic said they had taken control of the capital city following heavy fighting.

The fighters on Sunday also seized the presidential palace in the capital and forced President Francois Bozize to flee to neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.

On Saturday, hundreds of Seleka forces entered the capital, and called on President Bozizé to leave.

“We call on the population to stay at home, on the FACA (Central African Armed Forces) not to fight, and on President Bozizé to leave,” Seleka spokesman Eric Massi said in Paris.

Residents in Bangui rushed to their houses while the fighters took out a power station supplying parts of Bangui from the nearby town of Boali.

On Wednesday, CAR state TV announced two presidential decrees to free political prisoners, lift curfews, and ban road blocks manned by pro-Bozizé militia.

On January 11, the president and representatives of the Seleka fighters signed an agreement in Libreville after three days of negotiations brokered by regional neighbors.

Under the deal, some opposition figures and Seleka coalition members were given a number of key posts in the government.

The Seleka fighters launched an offensive against the government in December 2012.

There are many mineral resources, including gold and diamonds, in the Central African Republic. However, the country is extremely poor and has faced a series of rebellions and coups since it gained independence in 1960.


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