France to Send 1,000 Troops to Central African Republic

France commits more troops to the troubled former colony following a surge in civil conflict

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William Daniels / Panos for TIME

People demonstrate violently in the street in Bangui, demanding that President Michel Djotodia steps down following the murder of a magistrate shot dead the night before. 30 minutes later, the Seleka arrived and fired into the crowd, killing two men and wounded one.

France is to send 1,000 troops to the Central African Republic where violence has been escalating since rebel groups united to overthrow the president in March. It will be the second military intervention by France in one of its former colonies this year.

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said France had to uphold its “international responsibilities”. He told Europe 1 radio, “The Central African Republic is in collapse and we cannot let a country fall apart like that. There is the violence, massacres and humanitarian chaos that follow a collapse.” Le Drian said the mission would last about six months.

(PHOTOSThe Central African Republic Fans the Flames of Suffering)

The day before Mr Le Drian’s announcement, the UN deputy secretary-general Jan Eliasson described the country as “descending into complete chaos.” He warned that there had been a dramatic increase in killings, sexual violence and sectarian violence between Muslims and Christians. “If the situation is left to fester,” he said, “it may develop into a religious and ethnic conflict with long-standing consequences, even a civil war that could spread to neighboring countries.”

The French troops are expected to shore up an African Union-led force following a vote in the UN Security Council next week.

[Associated Press]