The father of a slain French soldier has described how disarmed Muslim fighters in the Central African Republic were lynched by a Christian mob in harrowing testimony that raised the spectre of a new wave of sectarian killing in the troubled state. Defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian yesterday admitted that France’s mission to pacify its former colony represented a much more difficult operation than the military intervention against Islamist rebels in Mali earlier this year. And those remarks were borne out by Philippe Vokaer’s account of his final contact with his 23-year-old son Nicolas, one of two French paratroopers killed in a firefight while on a night patrol in the capital Bangui on Monday. “We had a text exchange the same evening,” Vokaer senior told French daily Le Parisien. “He had witnessed some atrocious scenes. As soon as the French soldiers disarmed the Muslim militia, they saw them being lynched by a Christian mob in the middle of the street. There was nothing the army could do to stop it.” French President Francois Hollande made a brief visit to Bangui on Tuesday evening. After paying tribute to the memory of Vokaer and his fallen comrade, Antoine Le Quinio, 22, Hollande defended the military intervention as the only alternative to “carnage.” In Bangui, a humanitarian aid worker who did not want to be identified, told AFP he feared mass reprisals against members of the country’s Muslim minority, who are associated with the Seleka coalition behind the March coup which plunged the CAR into anarchic terror. “What we are faced with now is the spectre of a vicious spiral of reprisals with the village self-defence militias organising ‘return matches’ against Seleka and the Seleka themselves going on a killing spree as they retreat to their strongholds in the north,” he said. Despite those fears, the situation in Bangui, where hundreds were slaughtered with clubs and machetes last week, appeared generally calm yesterday with residents suggesting that fear levels were subsiding following the weekend deployment of 1,600 French troops. The situation was in sharp contrast to Monday and Tuesday, when rampaging locals pillaged shops owned by Muslims. The scale of any violence outside Bangui remains unclear.