BANGUI, Central African Republic - France and the African Union on Saturday announced plans to send several thousand more troops into the embattled Central African Republic after days of violence left nearly 400 people dead. Thousands of Christians fearing reprisal attacks are seeking refuge from the Muslim former rebels who now control the country.
French armored personnel carriers and troops from an AU-backed peacekeeping mission roared down Bangui's major roads as families carrying palm fronds pushed coffins in carts. In a sign of mounting tensions, others on the streets carried bows and arrows and machetes.
Concluding an African security conference in Paris, President Francois Hollande said France would raise its troop level to 1,600, 400 more than first announced. After a meeting of regional nations about the Central African Republic, his office said AU nations had agreed to increase their total troop commitment to 6,000, up from about 2,500, and would nearly double the projected rollout of 3,600 by year's end.
After more massacres on Thursday, the U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution allowing for a more muscular international effort to quell months of unrest. Troops from France, the country's former colonial overseer, were patrolling roads in Bangui and fanning out into the troubled northwest on Saturday.
Word of the bigger force came as human rights groups continued the grisly business of counting and collecting the bodies of those killed in recent massacres. The death toll in the capital rose Saturday to 394, Antoine Mbao Bogo of the local Red Cross said.
Meanwhile, the president of Central African Republic called on the former rebels integrated into the national army to stay off the streets.
Central African Republic, one of the world's poorest countries, has been wracked for decades by coups and rebellions.