French reinforcements entered the Central African Republic's capital on Friday, just a day after the UN Security Council authorized troops to intervene in the war-torn country.
The Red Cross announced Friday that it had collected the bodies of 281 people killed during two days of intense clashes.
The president of Red Cross in CAR, Pastor Antoine Mbao Bogo, said the toll would likely rise significantly when the organization resumed its work on the weekend.
"Tomorrow is going to be a monster of a day," he said.
Hundreds of people crowded a field as French soldiers arrived, hoping to seek safety from the violence and lawlessness in capital Bangui.
The bloodshed has prompted France to send fighter jets, helicopters, parachutists and armored vehicles to its former colony.
The United Kingdom provided a transport plane to help France's armed intervention.
“You have to secure, you have to disarm,” French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told Radio France Internationale.
“You have to ensure that the vandals, the bandits, the militias know they can’t use the streets of Bangui for their battles.”
French forces are now patrolling the city, which is reportedly empty.
Read more from GlobalPost: The UN to the rescue in CAR? Not for the residents of Bangui
The UN Security Council approved the measure to send more French troops to the scene unanimously, with French troops expected to expand to 1,200 from 600. African Union stabilization forces there will increase from 2,500 to 3,600.
The mandate is expected to last at least six months.
The CAR is reeling after a coup eight months ago by a separatist group known as Seleka, whose largely Muslim rebel fighters have been accused of spurring an increase in crime — with sectarian violence between Christians and Mulims on the rise as well.