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Central African Republic crisis: France sends more troops

The first French troops have deployed to the airport in Bangui

The first French troops have deployed to the airport in Bangui

The first reinforcements to the French force in the Central African Republic (CAR) are deploying in a bid to restore order after a rebel takeover.

Some 200 troops have arrived, with another 500 expected imminently.

Some former rebel forces have reportedly been leaving the capital, Bangui, as the French troops arrived in the city.

More than 10% of the 4.6 million population have fled their homes since Michel Djotodia seized power in March.

He is the country's first leader from the minority Muslim community. Muslim-Christian sectarian attacks have led to warnings of a genocide.

Bangui is relatively peaceful compared to the rest of the country

Bangui is relatively peaceful compared to the rest of the country

CAR is rich in minerals but has suffered numerous coups, mutinies and conflicts since independence from France in 1960, leaving most of its people in poverty

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'Who will disarm the rebels?'

The BBC's William Edmundson in one of the areas worst-hit by the violence, Bossangoa about 300km (185 miles) north of Bangui says that, although the Seleka rebel force has been officially disbanded, they can still be seen across the country.

He says that French troops, African Union peacekeepers, Seleka fighters and paramilitary police from the ousted regime are all patrolling in Bangui and it is difficult to say who is in charge.

There are currently some 2,500 African Union troops in CAR, due to be increased to 3,600 by January 2014.

The UN is due to discuss taking control of the peacekeeping force this week.

The AFP news agency reports that some Seleka fighters have been leaving Bangui under cover of darkness in recent days.

"The Seleka are leaving Bangui, but what will they do in the bush? Who will go and disarm them in the forest?" the agency quotes an unnamed diplomat as asking.

While 460,000 people need shelter, more than a million require food aid, the UN says.

It is not known how many people have been killed in the conflict this year because it is too dangerous to access the rural areas where most killings occur, a UN spokeswoman told the BBC.

However, she said that in the Bossangoa area alone, several hundred people were killed in the first two weeks of September.

The unrest in CAR has led to fears that the violence could spread to its neighbours, several of which are trying to emerge from years of conflict and remain extremely unstable, such as South Sudan, the Sudanese region of Darfur, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

France already had about 400 soldiers stationed in Bangui. Their mission was to protect French nationals.

Last week, France said it would send another 1,000 troops to help stabilise the country.

Armed gangs, mainly former Seleka fighters, now control most of the landlocked country.

Some are mercenaries from neighbouring countries, such as Chad and the Darfur region of Sudan.

Mr Djotodia has formally disbanded the rebels and integrated many fighters into the national army.

But some former rebels have continued to loot schools and hospitals, as well as attacking villages, prompting the emergence of local civilian protection groups.

The government in Bangui denies targeting any group, but recognises the rise in inter-community violence

BBC