News24

3 killed in CAR rebel attack

2010-07-20 15:30

Bangui - A rebel attack on a key northern town in the Central African Republic killed at least three people and wounded several but the attackers had been forced out, the army said on Tuesday.

Dissident fighters from a rebel movement that has signed up to a peace process with the government stormed the northern town of Birao before dawn on Monday, sparking exchanges of gunfire with soldiers.

Hours later the army said it was in control of the town, the main centre in a volatile area near Chad and Sudan and also a base for about 300 UN peacekeepers tasked with protecting refugees and aid distribution.

"We registered one loss in our ranks after the fighting yesterday (Monday)," an army source in Birao said, asking not to be identified.

"One dead was also counted on the rebel side, and a youth in the self-defence forces was killed," he said.

Youths had formed a self-defence unit after frequent attacks on the town, the official said. "They are armed by the population to defend the town and to support the forces of defence and security in such cases," he said.

Several civilians were wounded, probably by stray bullets, but there was no toll.

The army had chased out the attackers, he said, adding "there must have been other casualties" among the rebels during the rout.

The Movement of Centrafrican Liberators for Justice (MLCJ), one of several rebel groups that have joined a peace process with the government of the country, admitted on Monday that the attackers were dissidents from its ranks.

Some sources said the attackers were angry that they had not received food allowances as part of a disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration process that rebel groups have signed up to.

After years of instability, the Central African Republic has begun a peace process of which long-delayed presidential and legislative polls are an essential part.

The electoral commission has proposed the elections be held on October 24, having already postponed them twice so far this year.