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South Africa assists in neighbor's plight

  |   Jan. 6, 2013 at 4:39 PM
PRETORIA, South Africa, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- South African President Jacob Zuma has approved the deployment of 400 troops to help the Central African Republic's fight against rebels, officials said.

A government release says the personnel will render support in accordance with an international obligation of South Africa to the CAR, and will assist with the disarmament of rebel forces.

The announcement comes after rebels attacked two towns Saturday in the CAR, authorities said.

CNN said rebels are demanding the resignation of President Francois Bozize, and have seized various towns and are threatening to attack the capital.

A spokesman said the rebels are shooting randomly, destroying properties and raping civilians.

Meanwhile, officials said ministers from the Central African States are set to meet Tuesday to set an agenda for peace talks.

Bozize has stated he will not seek re-election in 2016, and has asked the international community to help the country fight off the rebels.

The United Nations Children's Fund called on the Central African Republic Friday to immediately stop the recruitment of child soldiers by rebel groups and pro-government militias.

"A number of rebel groups and various pro-government militias have become more active in recent weeks in the capital city of Bangui and across the country," Souleymane Diabate, the UNICEF representative for CAR, said in a release. "Reliable sources have informed us that children are newly being recruited among their ranks. These reports are of serious concern.

"Our team on the ground is working with partners to monitor, verify and respond to grave violations of child rights, including recruitment into armed groups -- those at greater risk are children who have lost their homes, are separated from their families or were formerly associated with armed groups."

UNICEF said about 2,500 boys and girls were associated with various armed groups, with the number expected to rise.

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