France will send 1,000 troops to the Central African Republic to keep growing chaos at bay, the defense minister says, announcing his country's second military foray into a troubled former colony this year. The announcement came a day after a top UN official warned of mass atrocities and possible civil war in one of the world's poorest countries, which has been in turmoil since rebel groups joined forces in March and overthrew the president. The rebels have been accused by rights groups of committing scores of atrocities including killings, rapes, and conscription of child soldiers.
"It's in collapse and we cannot have a country fall apart like that. There is the violence, massacres, and humanitarian chaos that follow a collapse," the minister said. "It will be a short mission to allow calm and stability to return." He rejected comparisons to the operation against al-Qaeda-linked rebels in Mali, where France still has 2,800 troops. "In Mali there was an attack of jihadists, terrorists who wanted to transform Mali into a terrorist state. This is a collapse of a country with a potential for religious clashes," he said. France will accompany an African force of troops from neighboring countries in a mission expected to last about six months. (Read more Central African Republic stories.)