Muslims Protest against French Military in Central African Republic
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Several thousand Muslims gathered in the Central African Republic’s capital Bangui to protest a disarmament operation conducted by French soldiers.
The demonstration, staged by supporters of former rebel group Seleka, marked the most significant show of hostility towards France since it deployed troops on December 5 to end the chaos that followed Seleka's coup in March.
"No to France", the protesters chanted, calling French President Francois Hollande a "criminal" and complaining that his troops had only come to protect Christians.
"This is a murderous operation, they want to divide us Central Africans. They have come to impose their will and make us kill each other," shouted one protester.
The protest swelled after three ex-Seleka fighters were killed in clashes with French troops, according to Muslim residents and a leader of the former rebel outfit.
The French army confirmed its troops had opened fire on suspected Seleka gunmen it said had trained their weapons on them but could not ascertain a death toll.
Seleka faction chief Abacar Sabone said the three fighters "were armed, it's true, but had not been threatening the French and did not use their weapons."
An AFP video journalist said the demonstrators marched from the city center to the Muslim neighbourhood of PK5 before dispersing peacefully.
A French army spokesman in Paris, Colonel Pascal Georgin, acknowledged a "clearly anti-French demonstration" but put the number of participants at around 100.
France has deployed 1,600 soldiers to its former colony to bolster an African force MISCA, which had been struggling to cope with an outbreak of Christian-Muslim violence.