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French, Central African troops quell rebel uprising


March 3, 2007 (BANGUI) — Central African Republic troops, backed by French forces, repelled an attack by rebel forces on the northeastern town of Birao on Saturday, a military source said.

"The fighting is over. The town is under the control of the Central African Armed Forces (FACA) with the help of French forces," a senior FACA army officer said.

Rebel and government military sources had earlier reported that insurgents belonging to the Union of Democratic Forces for the Rally (UFDR) launched an attack on the town which they held for a month in November.

UFDR Lieutenant Kader Kennengad told AFP by telephone that Birao had fallen into rebel hands after "fierce fighting."

Further details on the number of casualties or the extent of the clashes were not immediately known and UFDR representatives were not available for comment.

Last year the UFDR seized Birao, located 800 kilometres (500 miles) northeast of the capital Bangui, on October 30 at the start of an offensive in the region.

However, they were dislodged at the beginning of December by government forces backed by French troops and aircraft.

"Since the end of hostilities in the northeast, a French military unit stayed in the area to help the FACA. It is this unit which supported FACA troops during the fighting," a senior army officer explained Saturday.

UFDR president, Michel Am Non Droko Djotodia, and spokesman Abakar Sabone, are in prison in Benin. Their release depends on them agreeing to the peace deal but they have not said if they will do so.

CAR President Francois Bozize and his Chadian counterpart Idriss Debry Itno have both accused Sudan of backing rebels in their respective countries, an allegation that Khartoum denies.

In mid-February all three countries agreed not to support any rebellion in any of its neighbours.

The UN Security Council wants a rapid deployment of UN peacekeepers in eastern Chad and northeastern Central African Republic to protect civilians caught in the spillover of fighting in Sudan’s Darfur region, according to diplomats.


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