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Published : 2014-01-21 19:59
Updated : 2014-01-21 19:59

BRUSSELS (AFP) ― The European Union agreed Monday to send hundreds of troops to the Central African Republic in a rare joint military mission aimed at ending months of sectarian violence.

Saying Europe was “deeply concerned by the extreme insecurity and instability” in the impoverished nation, EU foreign ministers gave “political approval” to the rapid deployment of a force expected to number between 400 and 600. An EU-U.N. donor’s conference in Brussels meanwhile gathered $496 million in pledges this year for the country, where almost one million people, or 20 percent of the population, have been displaced by fighting.

As ministers discussed what will be the EU’s first major ground operation in six years, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned the country was in “a crisis of epic proportions” and urged the world “to pull CAR back from the brink of further atrocities.”

The military mission is to help establish a safe and secure environment around the capital, Bangui, where 1,000 people were reportedly killed last month alone in clashes between Christian and Muslim militias.

It will back up French and African forces and eventually hand over to African or U.N. peacekeepers after a four- to six-month period.

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