The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says the civilian death toll in the restive Central African Republic has exceeded 600 in the past week. The UNHCR says 450 people have been killed in the capital Bangui alone, with 160 others losing their lives across the country. According to the UN agency, nearly 160,000 people have been also displaced by the ongoing violence.
"We are seeing a further deterioration in the situation in Central African Republic," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said.Meanwhile, the African Union has authorized an increase of up to 6,000 troops in the Central African Republic. Currently, 2500 AU troops are serving on the ground there. Paris has so far deployed 1600 soldiers to the violence-wracked African nation. Meanwhile, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has arrived in the war-torn country to visit French troops and meet with interim officials. His visit comes after French President Francois Hollande visited CAR on December 10 following the deaths of two French soldiers who were killed on December 9 after heavy clashes with unidentified gunmen in Bangui. In a ceremony to pay tribute to the soldiers at a base in the Bangui airport, Hollande said the hundreds of strong French forces were “necessary if one wants to avoid carnage here.” France invaded its former colony after the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution giving the African Union and France the go-ahead to send troops to CAR. The Central African Republic enjoys numerous mineral resources, including gold and diamond. However, the country is extremely destitute and has faced a series of rebellions and coups since it gained independence in 1960. JR/SS