UN Council approves Central Africa protection force

The UN Security Council on Tuesday approved sending a special 250-strong military force to protect UN workers in increasingly chaotic Central African Republic, diplomats said.

UN leader Ban Ki-moon asked for the special force last week because of the anarchic conditions in the impoverished nation where rebels seized power in March.

The 15-nation Security Council replied to Ban on Tuesday giving agreement, diplomats said.

The force will not be traditional blue helmet peacekeepers. Their rarely used orders will only be to protect UN workers and premises.

A similar force was sent to protect UN staff in Iraq at the height of its sectarian strife after the US-led invasion of 2003.

A Security Council resolution passed on October 8 allowed for special protection measures in lawless Central African Republic.

Under the UN plan, the first 250 troops will be taken from an existing peacekeeping force and based in the capital, Bangui. The deployment could later be increased to 560 troops with others sent out to other parts of the country.

France has about 410 troops in Central African Republic and has promised to boost its force, which protects French nationals.

Ban called for a special UN force in Central African Republic because of the "absence" of national security forces in the country where violence has increased since the rebel takeover.

About 40 people were killed in weekend fighting between vigilantes and followers of the Seleka alliance that seized power at Bouar in the west of the country, the army said Tuesday.

The landlocked nation has been in chaos since Seleka rebels toppled President Francois Bozize in March.

A top UN humanitarian official who has just been to the country described events as "chaotic" with more than half the 4.6 million population facing "dire needs".

John Ging, the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs operational director, said "protection" was the number one problem.

With an increasing sectarian element in the fighting, tens of thousands of people have sought shelter in churches, mosques and community centers.

Ging said "indescribable" atrocities are being committed against civilians with the armed groups instilling "incredible fear."

"The scale of suffering is among the worst in the world and getting worse," Ging told a press conference.