France pulling troops out of Central African Republic after 3 bloody years

BANGUI, Central African Republic,  The French government has officially shut down its military operation in the war-torn Central African Republic after three years of unsuccessfully trying to stop the violence there.

French service members unload military equipment from the back of a cargo transport plane upon its arrival at Bangui Airport in the Central African Republic at the start of Operation Sangaris on Dec. 11, 2013. On Sunday, France formally shut down the operation after three years of attempting to quell inter-religious fighting between Muslim and Christian militias. File photo by Cpl. Neil Bryden/RAF/Crown/UPI

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian traveled to the young nation on Sunday to begin closing Operation Sangaris — a military intervention from Paris involving 2,000 soldiers.

Initiated in December 2013, Sangaris was intended as a three-year plan to quell the violence that erupted following the deposition of former President Francois Bozize nine months earlier.

 Bozize’s overthrow by the Seleka Muslim rebel group spurred the creation of multiple “anti-Balaka” Christian militias, and inter-religious violence in the CAR has raged ever since.

Although the end of France’s involvement has been planned for years, it followed a spike in violence last week, in which many people were killed — including 15 on Thursday alone. The deadly fighting drew condemnation from the nation’s secretary-general.

France said earlier this year it would leave a couple hundred troops in the country to supplement the primary force of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), which consists of 13,000 soldiers.

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In addition to the fighting between Christian and Muslim rebels, further tension in the CAR continues because many fighters and citizens do not like the presence of the United Nations’ MINUSCA forces.

Although fighting continues, Le Drian said Sangaris was a success.

Paris’ military operation the past three years is its seventh armed intervention in the Central African Republic since it renounced French rule and became an independent nation in 1960.

By Doug G. Ware