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Seleka rebels seize CAR capital

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President flees ahead of presidential palace being taken over

Seleka rebel coalition members take up positions in a village near Damara in the Central African Republic in this January 10 photo.— Photo: AFP
Seleka rebel coalition members take up positions in a village near Damara in the Central African Republic in this January 10 photo.— Photo: AFP

Central African Republic’s President Francois Bozize fled the capital early on Sunday, hours after hundreds of armed rebels threatening to overthrow him invaded the city, an adviser said.

The rebel alliance, known as Seleka, issued a statement referring to Mr. Bozize as the country’s ‘former President’.

“Central African Republic has just opened a new page in its history,” said the communiqué, signed by Justin Kombo Moustapha, secretary-general of Seleka.

The rebels had reached the outskirts of Bangui late on Saturday. Heavy gunfire echoed through the city on Sunday as the fighters made their way into the heart of downtown and seized the presidential palace, though the country’s leader of a decade was not there at the time. “Bozize left the city this morning,” said a member of Mr. Bozize’s presidential majority. The adviser declined to say where the President had gone.

Rebels from several armed groups that have long opposed Mr. Bozize joined forces in December and began seizing towns across the country’s sparsely populated north but halted their advance for peace negotiations in Libreville, the capital of Gabon.

A peace deal was signed on January 11 that allowed Mr. Bozize to finish his term that expires in 2016, but the rebels soon began accusing the President of failing to fulfil promises. They demanded that Mr. Bozize send home South African forces bolstering the country’s military and integrate some 2,000 rebel fighters into the armed forces.

The deal unravelled more than a week ago, with the rebels taking control of two towns and threatening to advance on the capital.

An unspecified number of French citizens have taken refuge in the French Embassy.— AFP


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