July 14, 2016 / 11:47 AM / 2 years 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.

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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