CAR rebels head for capital

2013-03-22 19:50
(Picture: AFP)

(Picture: AFP)

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Bangui - Rebels in Central Africa on Friday advanced on the capital Bangui as they resumed an offensive in the mineral-rich country in the face of international condemnation.

Troops from the Seleka coalition shot their way through the Damara key checkpoint some 75km north of the capital, said a source with the Multinational Force of Central Africa (Fomac), which was manning the roadblock.

"The rebels stormed the checkpoint and passed through... There were shots but no wounded," said the source on condition of anonymity.

"They are on the road to Bangui. We're on the highest alert."

A rebel spokesperson confirmed the attack and called for calm.

"We call on everyone, both civilians and the military, to remain calm ahead of our troops' arrival in Bangui, to avoid unnecessary fighting," rebel spokesperson Eric Massi told AFP from Paris.

Earlier in the day, the rebels said they had attacked and captured the southeast town of Bossangoa.

The rebel attacks came two days after the UN Security Council condemned recent fighting by the rebels and their threat to resume an offensive that they first launched in December and that ended with a shaky peace deal a month later.

The 15-member council expressed "strong concern" over mounting new tensions in the vast African nation as President Francois Bozize ordered the release of political prisoners in a bid to head off a showdown with the rebels.

Council members also "condemned the attacks conducted recently by rebels from the Seleka coalition, in particular in Bangassou and the surrounding region, and the threat of a resumption of hostilities."

Resuming hostilities

Earlier on Wednesday the Seleka rebal coalition announced that it would resume hostilities after a deadline for the government to meet its demands under an 11 January peace deal expired.

Seleka, an alliance of three rebel movements, first launched an offensive on 10 December in the north of the Central African Republic, a mineral-rich country of five million people that is notorious for coups.

Facing little resistance from an ill-trained and ill-equipped army, the rebel forces, who accused Bozize of not abiding by earlier peace deals, seized a string of key towns, defying UN Security Council calls to stop, before halting within striking distance of Bangui.

Under the January peace deal, an opposition member, Nicolas Tiangaye, became head of a national unity government that was to carry out reforms before national elections next year.

The rebels at the weekend detained five ministers from the new government, including members of the rebel coalition, to back their demands for concessions from the authorities.

Bozizi then offered to release political prisoners and end a night-time curfew, but the rebels have said this is not enough.

The Security Council said the new troubles "jeopardise the precarious stability" of Central African Republic, a landlocked nation of 4.4 million people plagued by instability since its independence in 1960.

Bozize seized power in a 2003 coup.

Read more on:    un  |  fomac  |  central africa republic  |  central africa

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