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RAF delivers gear to French troops

The Royal Air Force has delivered military equipment to French forces in the troubled capital of the Central African Republic, the Ministry of Defence has said.

The C17 aircraft flew French trucks and supplies to Bangui where peacekeepers are attempting to quell the violence.

French troops were deployed to protect civilians caught in the conflict after the United Nations Security Council approved international intervention last week.

A spokesman for the RAF said thousands of refugees watched from behind a razor wire fence as the jet was unloaded.

RAF Police Flight Sergeant John Cookson said: "The crowds looked very peaceful but from a security point of view it was a situation that could change easily."

He added that there seemed to be "a lot of goodwill" from most of the population towards the French.

The aircraft began its 3,500-mile journey at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, shortly before dawn on Wednesday, flying first to Istres air base near Marseilles to collect its cargo and then on to the CAR.

A section of gunners from 63 Squadron, RAF Regiment, flew with the cargo, which included two troop-carrying Renault GBC 180 trucks.

It followed a similar delivery of armoured vehicles to the region last week.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said the UK was working with other countries to end the conflict in the CAR but ruled out the deployment of British troops.

In a written statement to MPs last week he said the UK was providing the two RAF flights in the "spirit of our strong bilateral relationship with France".

"The Government is increasingly concerned about the deteriorating security situation and growing humanitarian crisis in the Central African Republic," he said.

"We are working with international partners, and through international organisations, to end the violence, deliver humanitarian support, and re-establish stability and security."

Two French soldiers were the first to be killed in the conflict on Monday.

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