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‘France is the chief criminal in Central Africa’

About 300 fundamentalist Muslims in Sudan branded France a “criminal” and called for jihad during a Friday rally in support of Muslims in the Central African Republic, an AFP reporter saw.

“France is the chief criminal in Central Africa,” said one sign carried by the protesters, many of them bearded, outside the main mosque in central Khartoum.

“Muslim countries have to boycott France,” said another of the banners which were written in Arabic, French and English.

The protesters came from various Muslim groups, shouting “Jihad!” and “Allahu Akbar! (God is greatest)”.

Two thousand French and 6 000 African peacekeepers have been deployed to Central Africa, which borders Sudan, on a mission to halt sectarian killings.

The Central African Republic descended into chaos nearly a year ago after rebels from the mainly Muslim Seleka group seized power in a coup, after which some mounted a campaign of abuses, prompting the formation of Christian-dominated vigilante groups.

Michel Djotodia, the Seleka leader who became the country's first Muslim president, was forced to quit in January but the self-defence groups have in turn escaped the control of the authorities and continue to commit atrocities in an ongoing sectarian conflict.

A Sudanese court last month jailed for three years a Central African Republic man after he stabbed a Russian diplomat and his wife outside their embassy, which is near France's diplomatic mission.

Police said he asked if they were French and then knifed them, in an extremely rare case of violent crime against foreigners in Sudan.

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