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At least 70 people have been killed and dozens of houses torched in clashes between Muslim and Christian communities in a town in Central African Republic, a local police official said on Monday. The scale of the violence underscores the challenge facing French and African peacekeepers trying to restore order to a country that has been torn apart by inter-communal violence since mainly Muslim rebels seized power in March. The leader of the rebel force, known as Seleka, stepped down as president last month, having come under intense international criticism for failing to stem waves of killings that killed hundreds and displaced about 1 million, about a quarter of the country’s population.

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