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Published: Thursday June 12, 2014 MYT 5:35:02 AM
Updated: Thursday June 12, 2014 MYT 5:36:08 AM

Central African Republic President seeks ICC probe

BANGUI (Reuters) - Central African Republic's President Catherine Samba-Panza has sent a request to the International Criminal Court to open an investigation into crimes committed during inter-communal violence raging here since mid-2012, state radio said.

Mostly Muslim rebel group Seleka stands accused of committing abuses against the Christian majority of the poor, former French colony as part of a bid that began two years ago to overthrow the rule of President Francois Bozize.

Christian self-defence militia, known as anti-balaka or anti-machete, sought to counter their attacks but later began committing abuses themselves. Samba-Panza became President in January after Seleka leader Michel Djotodia succumbed to pressure to step down for failing to stop the bloodshed.

"It is imperative that the perpetrators of repeated crimes who continue to circulate freely are arrested and judged," said justice minister Isabelle Gaudeuille, adding that the President's request to ICC top prosecutor was sent on May 30.

Gaudeuille said crimes against humanity had been committed in the country, without specifying. Ongoing violence had hindered the ability of local courts to probe the crimes, she added.

The ICC said in February that it would open a preliminary investigation for crimes committed since September 2012, although it has not yet said whether it has enough evidence to launch a full investigation.

Since her appointment, Samba-Panza has called on both Muslim and Christian factions to end violence, but it has had limited success despite the support of thousands of French and African Union peacekeepers.

The U.N. says that thousands have been killed in fighting and close to a million people made homeless.

(Reporting by Crispin Dembassa-Kette; Writing by Emma Farge; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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