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Polling stations have opened for the presidential election in the Central African Republic.
It is hoped the election will help restore democratic leadership in the country, which has been ripped apart by years of violence which have left thousands of people dead.
Thirty candidates are competing for the presidency, including former prime ministers Anicet-Georges Dologuele and Martin Ziguele.
Witness have said that heavy fighting broke out in a Muslim enclave of Central African Republic's capital Bangui as voters went to the polls.
The ballot is a constitutional referendum seen as crucial to restoring stability.
Explosions of rocket propelled grenades and gunfire were heard in the PK5 neighbourhood soon after UN peace keepers moved in to protect poll workers and residents who had been prevented from voting.
Eight civilians have been killed in an attack by armed men in the Central African Republic, just days after the Pope visited the country as part of his African tour, the UN has said.
The attack took place at a camp for displaced people at Ngakobo, around 37 miles south of central town Bambari, and also left one UN worker injured.
During his three-nation tour of Africa, Pope Francis called for peace in the country.
An investigation into child abuse allegations against French soldiers stationed in the Central African Republic is being carried out by a prosecutor in France, it has emerged.
The revelation came after a report in The Guardian claiming that a UN aid worker had been suspended for leaking an internal report to prosecutors detailing troops' abuse of children in the country.
Questioned about the report, a Justice Ministry spokesman said an investigation had been opened in July last year, and said it was "ongoing". He declined to comment further.
According to The Guardian, the confidential document outlined the sexual exploitation of children as young as nine by French soldiers residing in the African nation as part of a peacekeeping mission.
The UN has now said it conducted an investigation into the claims in 2014, and accused the member of staff of breaking protocol and "endangering victims and witnesses" by giving an unedited version of the report to French authorities before giving it to UN management.
President Barack Obama has imposed sanctions on Central African Republic's former president, Francois Bozize and four other men linked to violence and human rights abuses in the country, the White House said on Tuesday.
Also sanctioned were Nourredine Adam, a former minister of public security, and Levy Yakete, an "anti-balaka" Christian militia leader. Bozize, Adam and Yakete were blacklisted by the United Nations on Friday.
At least 22 people, including 15 local chiefs and three local members of staff from medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres, have been killed in an attack on a town in Central African Republic, officials said on Sunday.
Most of the casualties died when an MSF-run clinic in the town was attacked while local chiefs were holding a meeting there.
Children in the Central African Republic need international aid if they are to have any hope of surviving the extreme violence engulfing the Sub-Saharan country, War Child UK have warned.
Atrocities against children as young as three have been carried out, while one in 10 women and girls have been raped, the Children's charity said.
A 12-year-old girl told the charity: "A bullet hit my house while I was in bed. A soldier broke into my house and raped me."
Rob Williams, chief executive of War Child UK, explained: "Every day the crisis in the Central African Republic is worsening, and children are the innocent victims.
"Our survey shows the appalling impact on children and young people, who are losing their parents, their homes and their futures."
The burnt bodies of two Muslim men have been dragged through the streets in the Central African Republic capital Bangui in what the crowd said was a revenge attack for the disappearance of a Christian taxi driver at the hands of Muslim Seleka rebels.
The landlocked former French colony descended into chaos in March after a mostly Muslim rebel coalition, Seleka, marched into the capital, unleashing a wave of killings and looting. That triggered revenge attacks by Christian militia known as "anti-balaka" (anti-machete).