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Chad withdrawing troops from African Union's CAR peacekeeping mission

The Chadian government has said it will withdraw its troops from an African Union peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic. Chad denounced a "gratuitous and malicious campaign" against its troops in the country.

Chad's foreign ministry announced on Thursday that it was withdrawing its force of roughly 850 soldiers in the 6,000-strong African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA).

"Despite the sacrifices we have made, Chad and Chadians have been targeted in a gratuitous and malicious campaign that blamed them for all the suffering in CAR," the ministry said in a statement.

Chadian soldiers have been criticized for siding with Muslim Seleka rebels in the conflict, after several clashes with Christian militias in the capital Bangui.

Politically and religiously-motivated violence between Muslims and Christian groups have destabilized CAR with roughly one million people having fled their homes since late last year,

according to the United Nations.

In March 2013, fighting broke out when the predominantly Muslim Seleka rebel group seized power in Bangui and installed Michel Djotodia as the country's president. Violence flared again several months later as Christian groups began forming what they called "self-defense militias" against the Seleka fighters. The renewed bloodshed prompted a French and AU military intervention and, finally, President Djotodia's resignation in January.

The move comes just two days after the

European Union officially launched its military mission in CAR

, where 1,000 peacekeepers will join the AU force and some

2,000 French troops already on the ground.

The move also comes

amid an EU-Africa summit

in Brussels where regional leaders are seeking deeper political, economic and investment ties. The summit will also focus on the violence in CAR.

hc/msh (AFP, Reuters)

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