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CAR facing worst crisis in more than 50 years

BRUSSELS, Dec. 16 (UPI) -- EU Commissioner for Crisis Response Kristalina Georgieva said Monday the Central African Republic is facing its worst crisis since independence in 1960.

"The country is facing the worst humanitarian and human rights crisis since its independence," the European Union official said in a statement. "The number of internally displaced people has increased dramatically in recent days, to over half a million. 230,000 are refugees in neighboring countries."

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CAR descended into chaos in March when the rebel Seleka coalition, a mostly Sunni group, overthrew the government. The conflict has since taken on a religious tone, pitting Muslims against their Christian rivals.

The United Nations last weekend said more than 450 people were killed during recent fighting in Bangui, the capital of the former French colony.

The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution for French military support for an African Union peacekeeping mission in CAR. Two French soldiers died as a result of injuries suffered during recent fighting in Bangui.

Georgieva said the European Commission was offering nearly $24.5 million in aid to help address the humanitarian needs of those affected by the crisis.

"The access to basic services, food and water is limited and millions of Central Africans depend on outside assistance," she said. "We need to act now by increasing our aid and bring relief to those suffering the most."

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