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Angry mobs carry out revenge attacks in Central African Republic

GRAPHIC WARNING: Contains images which some viewers may find disturbing. 

Jerome Delay / AP

A Christian man with a knife chases a suspected Seleka officer in civilian clothes near the airport in Bangui, Central African Republic, on Dec. 9, 2013. The man was taken into custody by French forces who fired warning shots to disperse the crowd.

Heavy fighting has forced thousands of Christians to flee to the airport in search of refuge.

Christian and Muslim mobs went on lynching sprees on Monday as French forces began disarming fighters in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic. At least 459 people have been killed in the city since Thursday, according to figures from the local Red Cross cited by Reuters. 

Krista Larson, a reporter with the Associated Press, described how one man who was walking with his son was singled out because of his white robe, traditionally worn by Muslims:

They descended upon the man in a frenzy. His terrified son broke away, and fled on foot, leaving his father as the knife-wielding mob clutched him.

The mob insisted he had served as a general in Seleka, the alliance of mostly Muslim rebel groups from the north that overthrew the government in March and has been accused of carrying out atrocities against Christians.

Jerome Delay / AP

French troops detain a suspected Seleka officer, preventing Christian mobs from lynching him, in Bangui on Dec. 9.

The man was saved by French troops, Larson reported:

Soldiers fired into the air as a warning. "I am a merchant! I am a merchant!," the man cried as the French pulled him away, his back covered in dirt and his gown ripped off. His son was also being protected by French troops.

Jerome Delay / AP

Christians attack suspected Seleka members near the airport in Bangui on Dec. 9.

Jerome Delay / AP

A Christian man points out suspected Seleka members to a French soldier in Bangui on Dec. 9.

Fred Dufour / AFP - Getty Images

A man attacks a man suspected of being a Seleka rebel after he was arrested by French soldiers in Bangui on Dec. 9.

Fred Dufour / AFP - Getty Images

French soldiers gather weapons they found in a house in the Combattant neighborhood, near Bangui's airport, on Dec. 9.

Jerome Delay / AP

A French soldier speaks to suspected Christian militia member Sincere Banyodi, 32, after he was wounded by machete blows in the Kokoro neighborhood of Bangui on Dec. 9. Vigilantes said they spotted him with grenades and turned him over to French forces.