PARIS, March 24 (Xinhua) — France will strengthen its military presence in the Central African Republic to protect French citizens there after the country’s capital city Bangui fell into the hands of rebels, the president’s office said on Sunday.
“The president has followed with great attention the developments in Central African Republic,” the president’s office said in the statement.
President Francois Hollande “decided to strengthen our military presence in Bangui to ensure, if necessary, the protection of the French people who live there,” it added.
According to the Elysee Palace, the French president called for calm and dialogue while urging armed groups to respect civilians.
Hollande also spoke with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno, who also serves as Chairman of the Economic Community of Central African States, on the situation in the Central African Republic.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius confirmed earlier in the afternoon that Central African Republic President Francois Bozize had fled Bangui as the capital city was seized by the rebels.
Bozize fled the presidential palace in the capital Bangui 30 minutes before rebels began to zero in on the compound, Bozize’s office said on Sunday.
The announcement was made after a local human rights observation group reported that Bozize was seen on route to Mbaiki 107 km south of Bangui. Some reports said he was fleeing to the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.
France on Sunday also confirmed that it has sent 350 troops in the weekend to the Central African Republic to protect its citizens there.