BANGUI: The first European Union troops arrived in the Central African Republic, hours before the expected vote on a key UN resolution Thursday to authorise the deployment of peacekeepers, as police said fresh sectarian violence killed at least 30 people.
An initial contingent of 55 EU troops made their first patrols in the capital Bangui Wednesday, their arrival coming a day before the Security Council is expected to give the green light to the deployment of some 12,000 peacekeepers in order to help end the violence.
The troops are to maintain security and train local officers, French army spokesman Francois Guillermet told AFP. At least 30 people, mostly civilians, were killed on Tuesday in the latest clashes between mainly Christian militias and minority Muslim fighters in the central town of Dekoa, according to police.
A coup in March last year by the Muslim Seleka rebels plunged the country into chaos. After seizing power, some of the rebels went rogue and embarked on a campaign of killing, raping and looting.
The abuses prompted members of the Christian majority to form vigilantes called “anti-balaka,” or anti-machete in the local Sango language, unleashing a wave of brutal tit-for-tat killings in the former French colony.
In Tuesday’s violence “anti-balaka” militia attacked Seleka positions in Dekoa, some 300 kilometres north of the capital Bangui, police said.
“Most of the victims were civilians who were hit by stray bullets,” police said, adding that the fighting lasted more than four hours. Some 8,000 French and African peacekeepers have been struggling to stem the bloodshed, which the UN warns could turn into a genocide.
Thousands of people have been killed and around a quarter of the country’s 4.6 million people have been displaced by the violence in over a year.
The European Union said last week it would send around 800 troops — its first major ground operation in six years. They are expected to be fully operational by the end of May.
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