Map of Central African Republic where rebels have made advances toward the capital of Bangui. Supporters of President Francois Bozize want intervention by France to stop the rebel advances., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
French troops dispatched to CAR to counter Seleka fighters: Official
Sat Mar 23, 2013 11:6PM GMT
French troops have been dispatched in the Central African Republic (CAR) to counter the Seleka fighters, who allegedly entered capital Bangui earlier in the day.
"A company of troops has been sent to secure the airport. The airport is now secure," a diplomatic source told Reuters on Saturday.
According to reports, hundreds of Seleka forces entered the CAR capital, and called on CAR President Francois Bozizé to leave.
"We call on the population to stay at home, on the FACA (Central African Armed Forces) not to fight, and on President Bozizé to leave," Seleka spokesman Eric Massi said in Paris.
Residents in Bangui rushed to their houses while the fighters took out a power station supplying parts of Bangui from the nearby town of Boali.
"We are in complete darkness without any information," a resident said.
There were clashes between the fighters and government forces, who reportedly managed to retain control of the city center, home to the presidential palace.
There were also reports that the fighters took control of the neighborhood around Bozizé's private residence, known as PK12.
On Wednesday, CAR state TV announced two presidential decrees to free political prisoners, lift curfews, and ban road blocks manned by pro-Bozizé militia.
"We no longer trust Bozizé's promises. We are calling for him to resign, otherwise we will force him out," Massi said on Thursday.
On January 11, the CAR president and representatives of the Seleka fighters signed an agreement in Libreville, Gabon after three days of negotiations brokered by regional neighbors.
Under the deal, some opposition figures and Seleka coalition members were given a number of key posts in the government.
The Seleka fighters launched an offensive against the CAR government in December 2012.
There are many mineral resources, including gold and diamonds, in the Central African Republic. However, the country is extremely poor and has faced a series of rebellions and coups since it gained independence in 1960.