France has announced plans to increase its military presence in the Central African Republic (CAR) to 1,600 troops, 400 more than originally planned in the volatile former French colony.
French President Francois Holland announced the additional deployment on Saturday, saying the troops would remain in the troubled region for "as long as necessary."
He commented at the end of a Paris summit with about 40 African leaders that focused on security. U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon attended the summit. He called for urgent measures to help end the CAR's escalating violence.
French forces have begun widening their presence in the CAR, where fighting between armed groups has left nearly 300 people dead over the past few days.
The French intervention force, which had been patrolling the capital, Bangui, has begun deploying to western and northern parts of the country.
Earlier Saturday, French defense ministry spokesman Gilles Jarron said the French contingent has reached its "full strength of 1,200 troops."
In a VOA interview, Jarron said some soldiers had parachuted into Bangui. He said other troops had crossed into the CAR from Gabon and neighboring Cameroon.
Thousands of cheering CAR residents were on hand, Saturday, to greet French forces arriving from Cameroon.
However, Violence was reported in the capital Saturday despite an increased presence of French forces.
Thousands of residents have sought shelter and protection at the Bangui airport, which is under French control. Many other civilians have sought refuge in churches.
The Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres) says medical facilities in Bangui have been overloaded with wounded patients. In a Saturday statement, the relief organization said many of the patients had been shot or injured in machete or knife attacks.
The CAR spiraled downward into chaos and violence after the rebel Seleka movement seized power in March, ousting President Francois Bozize.
President Michel Djotodia's weak interim government has been unable to exert control over mostly Muslim ex-Seleka fighters, who are blamed for a surge in murders and other crimes.
Meanwhile, a mostly Christian armed opposition group known as the anti-Balaka has been contributing to violence and lawlessness.
The CAR has endured decades of instability since winning independence from France in 1960.
On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council authorized France to boost its troop presence in the former French colony.
Also, an African troop contingent known as MISCA is expanding its forces from 2,500 to 3,600 troops.
On Friday, the CAR government ordered all CAR security forces to "return to their barracks" in Bangui, leaving only French and MISCA forces to patrol the city.