CAR militia leader denies Congo arrest report

2014-02-28 12:02
(File, AFP)

(File, AFP)

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Brazzaville - The self-styled political leader of a militia sowing terror in the Central African Republic (CAR) denied a police report that he had been arrested in north Congo and transferred to Brazzaville.

"Contrary to what has been said on foreign channels and in certain newspapers, I have not been arrested in Congo and I wasn't transferred to Brazzaville", said Patrice Edouard Ngaissona, a former minister under ousted president Francois Bozize.

"I'm here, I haven't left the country... What have I done for anyone to arrest me?" he said in an interview on Thursday with CAR private radio station Ndeke Luka.

Earlier Congo police said that Ngaissona - who calls himself the co-ordinator of the mostly Christian "anti-balaka" (anti-machete) militia, was arrested on Tuesday along with two aides.

"Mr Ngaissona's arrest took place without violence," said a police official speaking on condition of anonymity. "He virtually handed himself in. He is currently in a safe place in the capital."

Congo's pro-government newspaper Les Depeches de Brazzaville splashed a front-page photograph of Ngaissona across its Thursday edition along with news of the arrest. There was however no confirmation from any official Congolese source.

Congo's northern Likouala region, which lies across the Ubangi river from the CAR, has since end 2013 hosted about 11 000 Christian and Muslim refugees, among the million civilians displaced by the violence engulfing their homeland, according to UN figures.

Escalating inter-religious unrest

Ngaissona served as a lawmaker and headed the Central African football federation before becoming sports minister under Bozize, whose ouster in a Muslim-led coup in March last year touched off a year of escalating inter-religious unrest.

Ngaissona went on to declare himself leader of the anti-balaka militia, set up in response to atrocities by the Muslim-led Seleka rebellion behind the coup.

The anti-balaka militia currently poses the biggest threat to security in the strife-torn country, where French and African peacekeepers are struggling to restore order and protect civilians.

Congo is deeply involved in the Central African crisis, with 1 000 troops deployed there, the largest contingent in the 6 000-strong African force MISCA, and President Denis Sassou Nguesso playing an important role as mediator.

Interim president Catherine Samba Panza made her first foreign trip to Brazzaville after taking over from Michel Djotodia, the Muslim president installed in last year's coup and forced out in January.

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