July 14, 2016 / 11:47 AM / a year ago

French troops will leave Central African Republic in October: Hollande

PARIS (Reuters) - France will end a three-year military peacekeeping operation in Central African Republic in October, François Hollande has said, although security remains volatile.

French President Francois Hollande delivers a speech during the annual reception in honour of the French Armed Forces, at the Defence Ministry in Paris, France, July 13, 2016 on the eve of the French national day military parade on Bastille Day . REUTERS/Stephane De Sakutin/Pool

The operation was launched in December 2013 to try to end a cycle of tit for tat killing that began when mainly Muslim Seleka fighters toppled the then-president, prompting reprisals by Christian anti-Balaka militias.

The defense ministry says Operation Sangaris currently commands around 350 troops in CAR, down from a peak of 2,000, and supports a 12,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force.

Hollande announced the operation’s end date late on Wednesday. French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had announced in January the operation would end this year.

Clashes have continued since President Faustin-Archange Touadéra took power in March in an election intended to draw a line under intercommunal and interreligious violence.

“Next October Jean-Yves Le Drian ... will go to Central African Republic to officially announce the end of operation Sangaris,” said Hollande in a speech in Paris.

“I want to state clearly that deciding to intervene is a great responsibility, but knowing when to end an operation is also a major concern,” the president added.

“You can’t do it too fast, too early, or too late,” he said.

Reporting by Marine Pennetier; Writing by Nellie Peyton; Editing by Tim Cocks and Raissa Kasolowsky

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