BANGUI, Central African Republic — Wielding rifles and machetes, Christian fighters who support the Central African Republic's exiled president assaulted the capital at dawn Thursday, killing nearly 100 people. Shrouded bodies were lined up in a mosque as dozens of wounded lay on blood-stained hospital floors.
The ambush on Muslim neighborhoods of Bangui came as the United Nations voted to send French troops to try to stabilize the country, and French President Francois Hollande announced plans to double the force. The daylong gun battle touched even the most protected parts of the capital, including the residence of the prime minister, underscoring the volatile mix of arms and ideology facing the arriving French force.
Scores died in Thursday's attack, including 48 people whose bodies were laid out at the mosque. Separately, Doctors Without Borders spokeswoman Amelie Ketoff said another 50 deaths had been confirmed, bringing the toll to 98.
Some died of bullet wounds, others from what appeared to be machete blows from a weapon known in the local language as a "balaka." The Christian militia call themselves the "anti-balaka," reminiscent of the horrific violence once seen in Rwanda.
Rebel leader-turned-president Michel Djotodia appealed for calm, even as his residence was looted and vandalized. He announced a dusk-to-dawn curfew to stem the threat of retaliatory violence against Christians.
France already has hundreds of soldiers in Bangui, and military vehicles patrolled the streets. The roads were otherwise bare except for the brightly painted pickup trucks driven by the ex-rebels who run the government.
The resolution passed Thursday by the U.N. Security Council allows France to send hundreds more troops. Speaking from Paris, Hollande said the 600 troops already in the country would be swiftly doubled.
The U.N. measure also authorizes the deployment of an African Union-led force to Central African Republic for a year to protect civilians and restore public order.
The United States has pledged $40 million in assistance to the African Union mission.
The Central African Republic, a desperately poor country where the life expectancy is 48 years, has been roiled for decades by rebellions and coups.