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Central African rebels deny bases in Sudan

Oct 31, 2006 (BANGUI) — A spokesman for shadowy rebels in Central African Republic denied his fighters have bases in Sudan and vowed to oust the president of this volatile nation in the heart of Africa.

Government spokesman Cyriaque Gonda said Monday that armed fighters based in Sudan’s troubled Darfur region crossed into Central African Republic a day earlier and attacked the northern town of Birao in fighting that killed both civilians and army troops.

Contacted by telephone from Birao, rebel spokesman Abakar Saboune confirmed his fighters assaulted the town and claimed they now control it.

"We are in full control of the town of Birao and its surroundings," Saboune said, adding that rebels planned to use Birao as a base to push toward the capital, Bangui, about 800 kilometers (500 miles) to the southwest.

Saboune said the rebels had been in Central African Republic since April, when they entered from a neighboring country he declined to name. Central African Republic has borders with Sudan, Chad, Congo, Republic of Congo and Cameroon.

Little is known about the rebels. Unidentified armed groups, have launched sporadic attacks on military installations in remote regions of the Central African Republic over the past year, displacing tens of thousands of refugees.

Saboune was once a well-known army captain who served with rebels led by President Francois Bozize, who swept to power in a bush war that culminated with a rebel assault on Bangui in 2003.

Bozize’s forces ousted former President Ange-Felix Patasse, and Bozize later held elections and won the presidency in May 2005.