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Central African Republic launches program to collect unauthorized weapons, curb crime

The security minister for Central African Republic plans to collect unauthorized weapons as part of a crackdown on violence and petty crime in the chronically unstable nation.

Jose Binoua launched the disarmament operation Wednesday in the presence of President Michel Djotodia, whose Seleka rebel coalition overthrew ex-President Francois Bozize in March. Djotodia has been criticized for failing to rein in his fighters, who have been accused of killing and raping civilians.

Binoua said the operation would target civilians as well as Seleka fighters bearing weapons outside six authorized security installations.

He said anyone caught violating weapons regulations would be severely punished.

A regional peacekeeping force launched a separate disarmament program in July. But the force has a limited presence outside the capital, Bangui, and the program had little effect.