World Bulletin / News Desk
The French defense minister on Monday officially announced the end of Operation Sangaris, a French military operation in the Central African Republic (CAR).France deployed its forces in the country in 2013 when Muslim Seleka rebels ousted then-President Francois Bozize, a Christian who had come to power in a 2003 coup. Fierce fighting then broke out between Muslim Seleka and Christian anti-Balaka militia groups.
"The end of operation Sangaris does not mean that France has abandoned CAR," Le Drian said, adding that France would keep 350 soldiers in the country as part of a UN peace mission in CAR (MINUSCA).
Operation Sangaris ends at a critical moment as violence has resumed in the central part of the country killing at least 25 people in the past few days, according to MINUSCA.
"You had three missions: to end the chaos, accompany the international forces and help for the organization of elections. These three missions are met, no one can challenge it, " Le Drian said during the ceremony in the capital Bangui.
In 2014, Operation Sangaris had some 2,400 soldiers.
The Central African Republic continues to endure a three-year-long security and political crisis.
Since 2013, thousands of people have been killed in a sectarian conflict. Thousands have fled their homes to seek refuge in neighboring countries, including Cameroon and Chad.
In a report, Amnesty International has estimated that more than 5,000 people, most of them civilians, had died in sectarian violence in the Central African Republic despite the presence of international forces.
The departure comes as a UN peace mission in the country is being criticized by citizens for its alleged failure to protect them.
Last Monday, a protest against the UN force left at least four people dead and 14 injured, including five peacekeepers, according to MINUSCA.
French forces whose mission was to ensure peace and security have also reportedly been involved in several child sexual abuse scandals.
Last year, a French court heard four French soldiers suspected of child sexual abuse, said to be committed between 2013 and 2014 in the Central African Republic.
The Central African Republic gained its independence from France in 1960.