Bangui tense after deadly clashes

2013-04-15 22:10
Armed Seleka rebels on a pick-up truck in Bangui. Sia Kambou,  AFP)

Armed Seleka rebels on a pick-up truck in Bangui. Sia Kambou, AFP)

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Bangui - The Central African Republic's capital Bangui was tense on Monday after a weekend of deadly clashes between residents and Seleka ex-rebel fighters who have seized control of the city.

Nearly 20 people were killed in the violence, according to medical sources. No toll was given by officials.

The clashes occurred as the Seleka fighters - who grabbed the capital last month, ousting former president Francois Bozize - were searching for hidden weapons, according to one police official.

But residents accused the former rebels of rampant pillaging, signs of which were evident on Monday.

Dozens of residents fled their homes in the big northern district of Boy-Rabe, some of them told AFP.

"It was real carnage yesterday [Sunday]," said one student who ran from the district, Jean Ngate.

Pierre, a 54-year-old building guard who declined to give his last name, said Seleka fighters late on Sunday broke down the door to the property he was in, forcing him to jump over a wall to escape.

On Monday, Seleka fighters were seen travelling through the district by foot and vehicle.

Michel Djotodia, the head of the Seleka coalition who was named interim president on Saturday by a transitional council, blamed the violence on Bozize loyalists challenging the new regime.

Bozize partisans

"The events of the past 48 hours in Boy-Rabe are due to the fact that our men went to that district... but those attached to the Bozize era ... killed our men," Djotodia said late on Sunday.

He has warned that Bozize partisans wanted to plunge the country into civil war.

The Seleka coalition took power in a rapid assault on the capital on 24 March, the latest coup in the notoriously unstable country.

Djotodia initially tried to declare himself president, but backed down when neighbouring African nations called for an interim head of state to be selected instead. The transitional council appointed named Djotodia - the only candidate - to the post.

A new summit of the Economic Community of Central African States (CEEAC) examining developments in the Central African Republic was to have taken place in Chad on Monday, but officials said it would now be delayed until Thursday.

A statement from Bozize aides sent to AFP said the former president condemned the coup against him, believing "its only goal is to permit those who ordered it from abroad to grab the underground wealth of our country."

Bozize said the Chad summit should call for a national dialogue in his country that would allow a return to "the democratic process".

France expressed concern over the recent events in its former African colony.

"We are very preoccupied by the situation in the Central African Republic. The persistent violence towards the civilian population is not acceptable," a French foreign ministry spokesperson, Philippe Lalliot, said in Paris.

"It is urgent that the authorities in control of Bangui ensure public order and security."

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