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Christian militia, French forces fight in C Africa

BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) — Fighting between a Christian militia and French soldiers in Central African Republic has left several people dead, including some who appeared unarmed, according to a witness.

Dimanche Ngodi, an official in the town of Grimari in the country's center, said the fighting began Sunday between Christian militants and former members of the mostly Muslim Seleka rebels. Central African Republic exploded into sectarian violence last year amid mounting resentment toward the Seleka-led government, who took power in a coup. The Seleka were blamed for raping, torturing and killing civilians, especially Christians. Christian militias then sprang up to exact revenge. Grimari town has recently seen significant fighting between the two sides, causing many residents to flee to the bush of the surrounding countryside.

French forces have deployed in the area and are trying to re-establish calm, a spokesman said. Ngodi, the Grimari official who witnessed the fighting Sunday, said French forces intervened and were fired on. They then chased down the Christian militants, known as anti-Balaka, killing several of them. Ngodi said most of those killed were armed, but three did not appear to be.

Capt. Sebastien Isern, a spokesman for the French forces, said they are conducting regular patrols in the town. He said they were fired on by an armed group and returned fire. He did not have a death toll, only saying the group was "neutralized."

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