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France begins military operation in Central African Republic

France has begun its military operation in the Central African Republican. The military deployment comes a day after the UN Security Council adopted resolution authorizing French intervention.

French military patrols in the central African nation began overnight, France's defense chief said Friday, as troops arrived in the capital Bangui.

"The operation has effectively started," Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told Radio France Internationale.

The goal of the mission, Le Drian said, is to provide "a minimum of security to allow for a humanitarian intervention to be put in place."

The operation will include "securing roads and main routes to allow people to be able to at least go to hospital."

He added that the streets of the capital had been calm a day after fighting left more than 100 people dead. It was the worst violence the capital has seen since rebels toppled President Francois Bozize in March.

The clashes between mainly Muslim former rebels, now in charge of the country, and a mix of Christian militia and fighters loyal to the ousted president came hours after the UN Security Council voted to approve French intervention.

The 15-membercouncil adopted a resolution allowing French and African Union troops to use force if necessary to stabilize the country. Included in the resolution was a mandate for 3,600 additional African troops and for France to double its current deployment in the country to 1,200.

Members of the council also asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to set up an inquiry into human rights abuses in the Central African Republic.

Germany ready to offer support

Also on Friday, Germany indicated its readiness to provide logistical support to French forces in the Central African Republic.

A German Defense Ministry spokesperson told reporters in Berlin that the German military would be able to provide up to five A310 aircraft for the transport of French military personnel and equipment if asked.

Approval from the German parliament would not be necessary in order to provide logistical support, the Defense Ministry spokesperson added, as the German military would not be operating in a conflict zone, but from a neighboring country.

Second major French intervention

The former French colony has seen months of unrest since the mainly Muslim-led uprising which has led to tit-for-tat sectarian violence with the nation's Christian majority. The country's interim president and former rebel leader, Michel Djotodia, is accused of failing to keep his predominantly Muslim militia under control, allowing them to prey upon the majority Christian population.

The UN estimates that 400,000 people have been displaced in the fighting, with 68,000 fleeing to neighboring countries.

France's military deployment marks its second major African operation this year, following its invention in Mali to oust al Qaeda-linked rebels from the country's unruly north.

Some African leaders are due to discuss the operation at an annual Africa-France summit in Paris later on Friday.

ccp/hc (Reuters, AP)