EU mission begins work in Central African Republic

EU's military mission starts operations in the African country which is witnessing ongoing violence against Muslims

EU's military mission starts operations in the African country which is witnessing ongoing violence against Muslims

BRUSSELS - A European Union mission tasked with protecting vulnerable populations in the Central African Republic has begun its operations in capital Bangui.

The Council of the European Union announced on Tuesday that the one thousand-strong military mission known as EUFOR RCA will operate around an airport in capital Bangui for six months.

The mission would contribute "both to international efforts to protect the populations most at risk and to the creation of the conditions for providing humanitarian aid," the Council said.

The forces will be led by French Major-General Philippe Ponties.

The EU mission, with a cost of nearly 25.9 million euros, is planning to hand over to an African Union mission after completing its mandate.

Six thousand African Union troops and two thousand French troops are already deployed in the mineral rich African state with a 4.6 million population.

There were reported to be some 130 thousand Muslims in the country before their number was reduced to less than a thousand after the escalation of the conflict in December.

The Central African Republic descended into chaos one year ago when seleka rebels removed Francois Bozize, a Christian who had come to power in a 2003 coup, and installed Michel Djotodia, a Muslim, as interim president.

Since then, the country has been plagued by tit-for-tat sectarian violence between Christian anti-balaka militias and Muslim former seleka fighters.

In a report in February, human rights group Amnesty International called the violence an act of "ethnic cleansing" against Muslim civilians.

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