The UN Security Council has adopted a resolution authorizing military action in the Central African Republic. France responded by saying it would send more troops to restore security and protect civilians "within days."
The 15-member council adopted the resolution allowing French and African Union troops to use force if necessary to protect civilian lives in the country.
Members of the council also asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to set up an inquiry into human rights abuses in the Central African Republic.
The UN reached the decision after armed clashes in the capital Bangui on Thursday resulted in numerous casualties.
It was the most significant attack inside the capital since the Seleka rebel coalition seized power in March.
Included in the resolution is a mandate for 3,600 African and 1,200 French troops to be deployed to contain the violence.
Within hours of the UN decision, France said it would double the number of troops in the country "within a few days, even a few hours."
French President Francois Hollande said he had "decided to act immediately" following a day of violence.
Months of unrest
The Central African Republic, a country of 4.6 million people, has seen months of unrest since rebels toppled former President Francois Bozize in March.
The country's interim President Michel Djotodia, the former rebel leader, is accused of failing to keep his predominantly Muslim militia under control, allowing them to prey upon the majority Christian population.
Some forces already in place
A 2,500-strong peacekeeping force is currently deployed in the country by the Economic Community of Central African States. The African Union is set to take charge of the force later this month.
France plans to boost its current deployment of 600 soldiers - 250 of whom were deployed to the capital on Thursday.
Bodies outside mosque
Medical charity Doctors Without Borders estimated that at least 16 people had been killed during Thursday's fighting in Bangui, with another 45 wounded.
The AFP news agency later reported that almost 80 bodies had been found lying outside a mosque and in surrounding streets in Bangui.
Fears of reprisal killings
Senior UN figures have warned of a danger that the waves of tit-for-tat violence will escalate into genocide, with human rights groups saying that both Christian and Muslim militias are guilty of abuses.
The UN estimates that 400,000 people have been displaced in the fighting, with 68,000 fleeing to neighboring countries.
rc/ipj (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)