French troops traded fire with former rebels in Central African Republic's capital Bangui on Monday as they sought to disarm fighters after violence in which hundreds have been killed, a peacekeeping force official said. France began operations to disarm, by force if necessary, mainly Muslim Seleka fighters and rival Christian militias on Monday, setting up checkpoints on Bangui's main roads and searching vehicles for weapons. Shooting erupted near the airport after Seleka gunmen refused to hand over their weapons, a spokesman for the Multinational Force of Central Africa (FOMAC) peacekeepers said. Things are going well," Colonel Gilles Jaron said, adding that French troops had already arrested 10 men and seized weapons.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces have taken control of a highway connecting Damascus to the coast that is needed to extract hundreds of tons of toxic chemicals for destruction, a monitoring group said on Monday. Fighting in Syria poses a hurdle to implementing an agreement between Damascus and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to remove the deadliest chemicals weapons by the end of the year to be destroyed. The army started an offensive in mid-November to secure the highway, which passes through the mountainous area of Qalamoun, roughly 50 km (30 miles) north of Damascus, stretches along the Lebanese border and hosts many military bases and outposts. "The road is open but not safe," said Rami Abdulrahman, head of the anti-Assad Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.