BANGUI, Central African Republic, April 9 (UPI) -- 55 European Union troops have arrived in Bangui, Central African Republic, to help stabilize a country involved in religious conflict.
The Eurfor troops began patrolling the city, “maintaining security and training local officers,” French army spokesman Francois Guillermet said. The operation, approved by the United Nations Security council, will involve up to 1,000 troops when fully staffed.
The E.U. personnel replace 850 troops from Chad -- France’s main partner in the military operation -- who began their withdrawal last week. Clashes a week earlier left 30 civilians dead; the Chadian troops claimed they were returning fire, but a U.N. investigation suggests they fired indiscriminately into a crowd.
The departure of the Chadians could make things worse, said Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko, head of the African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic.
“The Muslim population are worried and saw the Chadian contingent as their protectors. Their leaving, especially in the (central) region of Bossangoa, will be difficult for the Muslims,” Mokoko said.
The U.N. Security Council is expected to approve a 12,000-person peacekeeping force for the country, although the troops are not expected to arrive until September.