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French woman kidnapped in Central African Republic

French soldiers on patrol in Central African Republic.
French soldiers on patrol in Central African Republic. Stephane De Sakutin, AFP file photo

A French charity worker and a churchman were abducted on Monday in Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic (CAR), the French Foreign Ministry and the Caritas charity said.

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The 67-year-old woman was working for a charity providing health and education support to Central African villages, the ministry said.

The French ambassador in Bangui is in contact with the city’s archbishop’s office, which has started negotiations with the captors, it added.

A spokesman for the Caritas charity in Paris told Reuters a pickup truck carrying the woman, who does not work directly for Caritas but for the Catholic Church’s local health desk, and two churchmen from the Holy Ghost congregation, was intercepted in Bangui earlier this morning.

Abby Elysée Guendjiandé, national secretary of Caritas, said a pickup truck carrying three people including the French woman was stopped on the northern outskirts of the capital, which is controlled by "anti-balaka" Christian militia.

The charity worker and the churchman were seized, while a third person was not taken because the militia men took him for a driver, he said.

“When we called ... [her] telephone later the kidnappers picked up and said: ‘Release our General Andjilo and we will liberate the hostages,’” Guendjiandé told Reuters.

General Andilo, a senior anti-balaka leader whose real name is Rodrigue Ngaibona, was arrested on Saturday by UN peacekeepers in Bouca, around 300 km (195 miles) north of the capital.

CAR has been plagued by inter-religious violence ever since the Seleka, a predominantly Muslim rebel group from the country’s north, seized power in a March 2013 coup.

The Seleka officially disbanded after taking control but some former members launched a campaign of killing, raping and looting.

Anti-balaka militias were then formed to fight the former Seleka members, but began launching brutal reprisal attacks on the country’s minority Muslim population.

France launched an ongoing military intervention in its former colony in late 2013. A UN peacekeeping force was dispatched to CAR in September last year to help restore order.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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