French troops have reportedly killed several armed fighters in Central African Republic as Paris on Friday rolled out a United Nations-backed operation to restore security after a bloodbath that left dozens of bodies strewn across the capital.
The French army said its soldiers killed the armed men on Thursday in a dawn clash near the airport in the capital, Bangui.
“An armed pick-up opened fire three times in the direction of civilians and French troops. After the third time, we retaliated and destroyed the vehicle,” a spokesman for the French general staff said.
On Friday, warplanes overflew Bangui, a day after at least 140 civilians were killed in the capital – many clubbed or hacked to death in violence that erupted amid international warnings that the country risked sectarian massacres.
The country has descended into chaos since a motley coalition of rebel fighters known as Seleka overthrew the government in March and installed their own chief, Michel Djotodia, as president – the first Muslim leader of the majority Christian country.
It was the latest in a string of rebellions and coups in the impoverished, strife-torn country, where life expectancy is 49 years and the average income is less than $2 a day.
Reports from UN staff on the ground indicate the situation remains “very tense” in Bangui, with ongoing sectarian violence, said Adrian Edwards, a spokesman for UN refugee agency, UNHCR.