Central African Republic fighting kills 27
Libreville - Weekend fighting between rebels and soldiers in the Central African Republic left 27 dead on both sides, a rebel leader said on Monday.
The army could not confirm the toll, while saying that only rebels were killed in the clash in the north of the impoverished country on Sunday.
"We were attacked by a group of militia of the UFDR [the former Union of Democratic Forces for Unity rebel group, now allied to the government], and the FACA [Armed Forces of the Central African Republic]," rebel leader Abdoulaye Hissene told AFP in Libreville.
The battle lasting some four hours took place in the village of Sissikebe, near Birao, after around 100 men attacked in the late morning, said Hissene, head of the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP).
"There were 22 deaths on their side. On our side, there were five deaths and 15 wounded," Hissene said, adding that the attackers burnt nearly 30 homes.
A senior military source in Bangui told AFP that FACA had come under attack twice around 100km from Birao on Sunday.
"Our forces repulsed these attacks, killing several of the rebels," the official said. "It is difficult to say exactly how many rebels were killed."
Fighting last month between the CPJP and the army in the region of Ndele, also in the north, killed seven civilians according to an official toll, while rebels said 32 were killed of whom 28 were soldiers or UFDR fighters.
In November, the CPJP took Birao, the north's main city, which was recaptured on December 1 by the Chad army, at Bangui's demand - killing 65 rebels according to official figures.
"It appears that the CPJP has opted since the attack on Birao last November to ambush our patrols," said the military source, adding three soldiers died in this way in February.
"And what is more, the CPJP attacked two villages last month near Ndele," she said, adding that the army's aim was to secure all roads in the northeast.
The CPJP, which says it is fighting for democracy, did not sign a 2008 peace accord.