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THOUSANDS MARCH IN BANGUI TO PROTEST FRENCH INTERVENTION

Thousands shouting "no to French manslaughter" marched through Bangui on Thursday after French warplanes and helicopter gunships joined the battle against mutinous soldiers trying to oust the president.

France, the former colonial power, and the United States stepped up evacuation of their nationals as the 5-day-old uprising showed no sign of ending.A French military plane flew 170 French citizens to Paris on Thursday, and 54 Americans were flown to Cameroon, bringing the total number of evacuated U.S. citizens to 67.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Gerald Huchel said the U.S. Air Force C-130 that carried out the Americans also evacuated two Nigerians, a Cameroonian and a British citizen.

An overnight curfew was put in place Wednesday. While the city remained relatively calm overnight, several thousand people held an impromptu march early Thursday to demand that President Andre-Felix Patasse fight his own battles.

Shouting "no to French barbarism, no to French manslaughter!" they said the intervention was intended only to save Patasse and preserve French influence in the Central African Republic.

Patasse, who defeated Gen. Andre Kolingba in 1993 elections and has been accused of undermining the army's long history of power here, remained out of sight.