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Panic, violence spread in Central African Republic
Friday, December 20th, 2013

"Children as young as 11 have picked up daggers or have knives or even hunting rifles," Peter Bouckaert, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, said last week.

He was speaking about the violence that has spread in the Central African Republic, where a deepening crisis has forced more than 700,000 people from their homes — some 210,000 fleeing the capital Bangui within the last two weeks.

On Friday, reports from the country said Christian militia, known as the anti-balaka, had attacked Muslim neighborhoods in Bangui.

Three Seleka rebels — part of a mainly Muslim group — were shot dead in central Bangui as one pulled a grenade.

"Muslims and Christians take revenge," said Clotilde Namboi, the chief district administrator of the Ouham region in CAR.

More from GlobalPost: In the past two weeks, this conflict has displaced more than 200,000 people in one city

Refugees who fled the violence reported witnessing "atrocities, including killing, looting, breaking into homes," according to the United Nations.

The UN also reported Friday that hospitals had come under attack in the last week. 

"Health centers and hospitals continue to be targeted by unidentified militias," World Health Organization spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told reporters in Geneva.

A humanitarian aid worker told Agence France-Presse, "We are on maximum alert."

All this, despite 1,600 French troops and an African Union peacekeeping mission's presence in the country.

France has appealed to Europe for support in calming the violence in its former colony, as French soliders work to disarm both Seleka and anti-balaka fighters.

French President Francois Hollande said the African Union force, which is expected to reach 6,000 by the end of January, may even increase to 9,000.

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A child falls to the floor following gunshots in the Combattant neighborhood on December 20, 2013 in Bangui.

(FRED DUFOUR - AFP/Getty Images)
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People run for cover following gunshots in the Combattant neighborhood on December 20, 2013 in Bangui.

(FRED DUFOUR - AFP/Getty Images)
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People run for cover following gunshots as French troops patrol in the Combattant neighborhood on December 20, 2013 in Bangui.

(FRED DUFOUR - AFP/Getty Images)
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Former Multinational Force of Central Africa (FOMAC) soldiers put on the new African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA) green berets during a ceremony in Bangui on December 19, 2013.

(AFP - AFP/Getty Images)
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A general view of the refugee camp near the airport in Bangui on December 19, 2013. Amnesty International said this week the Central African Republic's mostly Muslim ex-rebels killed nearly 1,000 people in the capital Bangui two weeks ago.

(FRED DUFOUR - AFP/Getty Images)
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A combination of pictures taken on December 18, 2013 shows French troops checking people and places during a night patrol part of operation Sangaris in Bossangoa.

(FRED DUFOUR - AFP/Getty Images)
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Children gather in front of the Christian refugee camp in Bossangoa, Central African Republic, on December 18, 2013.

(FRED DUFOUR - AFP/Getty Images)
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People gather in the Christian refugee camp in Bossangoa, Central African Republic, on December 18, 2013.

(FRED DUFOUR - AFP/Getty Images)
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A boy scared from machete strikes waits in his room at the pedriatic hospital in Bangui on December 18, 2013.

(FRED DUFOUR - AFP/Getty Images)
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Anti-balaka militiamen, who were former members of the Central African Armed Forces (FACA), take part in a training session on the outskirts of Bangui on December 17, 2013.

(AFP - AFP/Getty Images)
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