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French aid worker freed in Central African Republic

French aid worker Claudia Priest has been released after being kidnapped in the Central African Republic (CAR) earlier this week, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Friday.

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Fabius did not offer details about the release, but thanked the CAR authorities as well as the archbishop of the capital, Bangui, for their help.

Claudia Priest, 67, was kidnapped on Monday. She had been working for a charity providing health and education support to Central African villages, acording to the French foreign ministry.

Earlier this week, the United Nations said a member of its peacekeeping mission in the country had been released after being briefly detained in Bangui on Tuesday.

A statement from the office of President François Hollande welcomed Priest's release and reiterated France's support for the transitional government of President Catherine Samba-Panza.

"[The president] renews his support for the transitional president, Mrs Samba-Panza, and her government in its efforts to strengthen security and pursue a path of reconciliation in the CAR."

The impoverished country slipped into chaos last year after the predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels 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, prompting some communities in the Christian-majority nation to form vigilante "anti-balaka" militias, many of which sought revenge on the country's Muslim minority.

The inter-religious violence that followed prompted UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres to warn that Muslims in the country were facing an “ethno-religious cleansing” in an interview with FRANCE 24 last year.

France launched an ongoing military intervention in its former colony in late 2013. A UN peacekeeping force known as the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission (MINUSCA) took over peacekeeping operations from the African Union in September.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

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