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France begins troop drawdown in Central African Republic

French soldiers of the Sangaris operation patrol in military vehicles on the Boali road near Bangui on December 6, 2014France announced on Thursday it was reducing its troop numbers in the Central African Republic as it gradually hands over to a 8,500-strong UN peacekeeping force brought in to contain a deadly sectarian conflict. “We are going to begin a first cutback phase in the following days, going from 2,000 to 1,700 men,” army spokesman Gilles Jaron said. France’s Operation Sangaris will be reorganised around two zones — one between the capital Bangui and the central town of Bambari and the other around Kaga Bandoro and Ndele further north — with the UN mission MINUSCA taking over almost all the responsibility in the east, Jaron said. France will continue to provide support to the UN as it tackles ex-Seleka extremists, he said.

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