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Gunfire in Bangui ahead of UN resolution on AU-led force

Gunfire in the Central African Republic's capital has left several dead ahead of a UN resolution that would authorize French troops to deploy to the country. The nation has been in turmoil ever since a March coup.

Gunfire first erupted early on Thursday and rang out sporadically for nearly three hours near Bangui's airport. Other reports of gunfire were came from suburbs to the north and east of the city. Some reports put the number of people killed in Thursday's fighting as high as 16 with many others wounded.

The fresh violence in the capital comes ahead of a United Nations Security Councl vote on a resolution that would authorize the deployment of French and African forces to the Central African Republic for a year to protect civilians and restore security.

If the Security Council passes the resolution the number of personnel in the AU-led force, known as MISCA, is expected to rise from about 2,500 to 3,500.

The country has been on the brink of near anarchy since a rebel alliance overthrew President Francois Bozize in March. Around 400,000 people have been displaced amid the rising sectarian violence between the mainly Muslim Seleka rebels and Christian militias.

The UN resolution would also authorize French forces, "to take all necessary measures" to support the AU-led force.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said a military intervention would unfold quickly after the UN vote. He told BFM-TV that the deployment would total around 1,200, with 600 troops already in the former French colony.

"We have to end this humanitarian catastrophe and restore security," Fabius said.

hc/pfd (Reuters, AFP, AP)