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Fresh killings, gunfire in C African capital

Sporadic gunfire, loud explosions and street murders shook Central African Republic on Wednesday, despite the efforts of African and French peacekeepers, who are awaiting reinforcements from a European force.

BANGUI: Sporadic gunfire, loud explosions and street murders shook Central African Republic on Wednesday, despite the efforts of African and French peacekeepers, who are awaiting reinforcements from a European force.

A brief outburst of automatic gunfire could be heard late morning in the commercial heart of the capital Bangui, causing the local population to flee.

It was unclear immediately whether there were casualties from the fighting between opposing Christian and Muslim militias, according to residents.

However, violence in other parts of the city left at least two dead.

AFP journalists witnessed the killing of a young Muslim by Christian militiamen armed with knives and machetes, despite the efforts of French troops to save him.

Only a few hundred metres away, a young Christian was killed by a civilian, said one witness, who identified himself as Benjamin.

There were also reports of looting.

The violence came a day after the United Nations handed European troops the mandate to use "all necessary force" to protect civilians caught up between Muslim and Christian groups in the war-torn country.

The European Union plans to send up to 600 troops to back African Union and French troops.

The African Union force is eventually intended to reach 6,000 troops while France now has 1,600 soldiers in place.

The UN believes at least 10,000 troops will eventually be needed to restore order, according to France's UN ambassador.

Rebels ousted the Central African Republic's longtime president last March, but an interim government lost control of the country as violence broke out between the Christian and Muslim communities.

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