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Iran Press TV

City seized by rebels in CAR back under government control: UN

Iran Press TV

Wednesday, 23 December 2020 7:57 AM

The United Nations (UN) says the key city of Bambari in the Central African Republic, which had earlier been seized by rebels, is now in the hands of UN peacekeepers and national security forces.

Abdoulaziz Fall, a spokesman for the UN peacekeeping force in the country, or MINUSCA, made the remarks at a press conference in the capital, Bangui, on Wednesday.

"The situation in Bambari is under control," he said. "The civilians are starting to return. The armed groups have been pushed back into the bush."

Rebel forces attacked and took control of the city following a fierce gun battle on a major road in the west of the country on Tuesday.

The attack triggered a two-hour gunfight with CAR troops and the MINUSCA, unnamed sources in NGOs and the UN told the AFP news agency.

The rebels were led by an armed group called the Unity for Peace in Central Africa (UPC), one of the militias contesting the government in the run-up to elections, the sources said.

The developments followed an alleged military coup plot at the weekend ahead of key presidential and legislative elections scheduled for December 27.

On Saturday, the government alleged that former president Francois Bozize was seeking to mount a coup after three of the powerful armed groups that control most of the CAR's territory began advancing toward the capital along main roads.

The government said that Bozize was at Bossembele — nearly 150 kilometers from Bangui — with militants from three rebel groups which had formed an alliance calling itself the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC).

However on Sunday, a spokesman for MINUSCA said the rebel forces advancing on the capital had been repelled and the situation was "under control."

The CAR's President Faustin-Archange Touadera, who is seeking re-election, has struggled to maintain stability in the divided country.

Separately on Tuesday, International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda called for "calm and restraint" ahead of the elections.

"Anyone who commits, orders, incites, encourages or contributes, in any other way, to the commission of crimes" would be liable for prosecution either by Bangui courts or by the ICC, Bensouda warned.

Russia sends extra 300 military instructors to CAR

Meanwhile, Russia has announced that it has deployed an extra 300 military instructors to the CAR at the county's request to help counter a surge in violence by rebel groups.

"We are carefully following the unfolding situation in the Central African Republic," Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday. "We are seriously concerned that the events of recent days have led to a sharp deterioration in the security situation in this country."

The ministry further said the opposition and armed groups are trying to destabilize the situation with the help of external forces.

On Monday, the CAR declared that Russia and Rwanda had sent several hundred soldiers and heavy weapons to the country within the framework of a bilateral cooperation agreement.

Russia had reportedly previously sent arms and security contractors to the CAR.

The CAR spiraled into conflict when Bozize, a Christian, was ousted as president by the Seleka, a coalition drawn largely from the Muslim minority.

That triggered fighting between the Seleka and the so-called "anti-Balaka" forces, who are mainly Christian and animist.

Bozize, back after years in exile, has been barred from running in the polls by the coup-prone country's top court. The country had issued an international arrest warrant against him on charges including murder, arbitrary arrest, and torture.

The Coalition of the Democratic Opposition (COD-2020), which was until recently led by Bozize, has demanded the postponement of the vote "until the re-establishment of peace and security."

The government and the UN mission in the CAR insist, however, that the vote will go ahead as planned.

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