24 March 2013

Central African Republic: President Flees as CAR Rebels Take Capital

Rebel soldiers (file photo).

The president of the Central African Republic has fled to neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo after rebel troops seized the capital, Bangui. The rebels' advance continues uncontested.

President Francois Bozize, the target of an attempt to overthrow the government by Central African Republic rebels, has fled to Congo after the rebels took control of the city on Sunday.

"The rebels control the town," said presidency spokesman Gaston Mackouzangba. "I hope there will not be any reprisals."

Witnesses reported gunfire and explosions in the city, and one rebel commander, speaking to the AFP news agency, said the presidential palace had been taken in Bangui.

"We have taken the presidential palace," said Colonel Djouma Narkoyo, a commander on the ground. "Bozize was not there."

Since Friday, several towns have fallen after a peace accord between the rebels and the government collapsed. The rebels are made up of several opposition groups, officially known as the Seleka coalition.

The rebel groups first seized the town of Bossangoa, which lies in the west of the country. They later took Damara, where the ceasefire boundary line had been drawn.

The Seleka rebels have faced little resistance from the army, which is ill-trained and ill-equipped.

The United Nations Security Council has reacted to the unravelling situation with alarm. On Friday, the 15-nation body met to discuss the escalation of hostilities. They later released a press statement warning the rebels that they would face consequences for any human rights violations in areas under their control.

- AFP, AP, Reuters

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