CAR rebels push into capital

2013-03-24 12:09

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Bangui - Rebels in the Central African Republic said they had advanced into the capital Bangui, ignoring a call by the country's prime minister for talks to avoid a "bloodbath".

"We call on the population to stay at home, on the FACA (Central African Armed Forces) not to fight, and on President (Francois) Bozize to leave," Paris-based rebel spokesman Eric Massi said Saturday.

Fighters from the Seleka rebel coalition have this week pushed their way to the gates of Bangui after the collapse of a two-month-old peace deal.

On Saturday, they said they had moved past the PK 12 checkpoint that effectively marks the entrance to the city.

A Central African military source who asked to remain anonymous denied the claim.

But Bangui resident Francis Komgdo, who lives near the PK 12 checkpoint, told AFP the rebels had arrived in the district, some in vehicles others on motorbikes, occasionally firing in the air.

SA troops

Truck driver Donatus Bion reported seeing rebels on the outskirts of the capital, adding that they had not been violent.

"They told us to stay calm and that they would not be attacking us," he said.

Massi said the rebel leadership was urging its forces on the ground to refrain from "looting or score-settling with the local population".

A source with the FOMAC, the multinational African force in the country, told AFP that South African troops were guarding the key checkpoint.

But the source added: "According to our information, the rebels got men into the capital on foot, but they have not got through with vehicles because of the presence of the South African force."

FOMAC's commander Gabonese General Jean Felix Akaga reported explosions on the outskirts of the capital.

At the sound of gunfire, the streets emptied as local people fled to their homes. Virtually the only traffic was military vehicles patrolling the main highways.

The city was plunged into darkness after rebels sabotaged a hydroelectric power plant in Boali, north of the capital, an official with the Enerca electricity company and residents said.

Read more on:    central african republic  |  central africa

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