U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called Thursday for the rapid deployment of at least 3,000 additional troops and police to conflict-ravaged Central African Republic to prevent further religious killings that have forced almost one million people to flee their homes.
That would bring the international forces in the country to 12,000.
Ban's call followed an appeal for more troops by U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos at the end of a three-day visit to the country earlier Thursday.
Amos told reporters she and her colleagues "were shocked by what we saw" in the remote town of Bossangoa, which has been at the center of the fighting between the country's Muslim minority and Christian majority. She said tensions between communities are high and people fear for their lives.
Ban told the U.N. Security Council on Thursday that he would report shortly to the 15-member body with a recommendation for a U.N. peacekeeping force with a mandate to protect civilians and promote stability in the country, Reuters reported.
"But the deployment of a peacekeeping operation, if authorized, will take months," Ban said. "The people of the Central African Republic do not have months to wait. The international community must act decisively now.”
"The security requirements far exceed the capabilities of the number of international troops now deployed," he said.
Ban called for reinforcement of the African Union and French troops with additional deployments of at least 3,000 more troops and police "in the coming days and weeks," equipped with aircraft to operate wherever required.
He said French President Francois Hollande has pledged an additional 400 troops, the European Union has said it will double its contingent to 1,000, and the AU will propose an expansion of its force.
But Ban said more troops and police are needed urgently "and the wider international community must share the burden." U.N. officials say they are privately hoping that European countries will provide even more troops and police.
The secretary-general called for "a coordinated command" for the AU, French and EU contingents that would focus on containing the violence, protecting civilians, providing security to deliver humanitarian aid to over 2.5 million people — more than half the 4.6 million population — and preparing for the handover to a U.N. peacekeeping force "as soon as possible."
The extra troops, which Ban said needed to be deployed within weeks and be equipped with air mobility, would increase the international force to 12,000.
The deployment would bridge a gap of up to six months until a U.N. peacekeeping force, if approved by the Security Council, could be established in the country.
Ban, who has said he is concerned the violence could spiral into genocide, warned that a "de facto partition" of the country was setting in.
Nearly one million people, a quarter of the population, have been displaced by the fighting.
Central African Republic, long one of the world's poorest and most unstable countries, plunged deeper into chaos nearly a year ago when the Muslim rebels from the north invaded the capital and overthrew the president of a decade.
The rebels pillaged neighborhoods, raping and killing people with impunity for months, giving rise to the Christian militia. Those fighters attempted a coup in early December, and violence between the two communities exploded in the days that followed.
The president installed by the Muslim rebels has since gone into exile, and a nascent civilian government is attempting to restore order.
The U.N. chief painted a grim picture of the country, saying "it is a calamity with a strong claim on the conscience of humankind."
Al Jazeera and Wire Services