Following unanimous U.N. Security Council approval, French president Francois Hollande announced forces from his country will take "immediate" military action in the Central African Republic on Thursday. The country plunged into violence following a coup by a rebel coalition earlier this year, but the situation has deteriorated in recent weeks, prompting fears of an actual genocide.
According to earlier reports, France plans to send 1,200 additional troops to the C.A. R., a former colony of France, on top of the 600 or so already there. According to Hollande, some of those reinforcements could arrive "within a few days, if not a few hours." They'll join an expanded African Union force approved by the U.N. to protect the country's citizens from warring militia groups.
Former President Francois Bozize was deposed in March by a rebel coalition known as Seleka. But Seleka is far from an organized coalition, and some allied militias have carried out well-documented attacks on the country's citizens. Fighting in the country is divided widely along religious lines, as Christian "anti-Balaka" fighters opposed to the rebel government engage in a mix of self defense and assaults on key rebel targets.
At least 50 people were killed and 100 wounded in the country's capital early Thursday, according to a Doctors Without Borders official speaking to The New York Times. Although fighting is worse in the more rural areas of the country, it appears that groups opposed loyal to the former president have launched an offensive against key areas of Bangui, including the country's only international airport.
The French intervention also comes nearly a year after another expedition in a former colony, when Hollande sent military forces to battle Islamist rebels in Mali back in January.