CAR census agents abducted
Bangui - Rebels in the Central African Republic (CAR) have abducted 21 census agents updating voters' rolls for forthcoming elections, an election official and a senior military source told AFP on Saturday.
Members of the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP) had abducted the election workers on Friday, said the source from the military high command.
"Leaders of the local independent electoral committee have just told us that 21 census agents have been taken hostage by elements of the CPJP," said Rigobert Vondo, head of the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI).
The agents were intercepted as they approached Birao, in the northeast of the country, the military source added, citing information from local military officials and the authorities in Birao.
The rebels confiscated the information that had been gathered for the electoral register, intended for the January 2011 presidential and legislative elections, and tore it up, the source said.
The first round of the presidential election was finally set for January 23 after two postponements, with a second round for March 20, if no clear winner emerges from the initial vote.
The CEI announced last week that the voter census had been completed successfully.
The CPJP, unlike most rebel groups in the CAR, has not signed peace accords with the government of President Francois Bozize, which has been attempting to bring stability to the deeply poor, landlocked nation.
Its main leader, former minister Charles Massi, died in a Central African prison in January and his family has accused the authorities of having tortured him to death, a claim Bangui has dismissed as lies.