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The BBC's David Bamford in Abidjan
"There are reports that several members of the Presidential Guard were killed"
 real 28k

Monday, 28 May, 2001, 15:15 GMT 16:15 UK
CAR 'coup attempt' fails
Bangui protestors
There have been a series of protests in Bangui
Authorities in the Central African Republic say that the presidential guard have foiled an attempted coup d'etat.

Soldiers from a rebellious army unit began firing shots and mortar shells into President Ange-Felix Patasse's residence in the capital Bangui at about 0200 local time (0100 GMT) on Monday.


A statement from the president's office said that the presidential guard managed to repel the attack and was pursuing the rebels.

The president was said to be unscathed by the attack, but remains under heavy guard.

The BBC correspondent in Bangui said that the situation is still tense in the city despite the claims that the army was in control.

The rebellious soldiers were still present in the south end of the city by Monday afternoon and they controlled the area's radio transmitter.

The BBC correspondent said that sporadic shooting could still be heard.

CAR's recent political history has been marred by instability, and there were three army mutinies in the late 1990s.

Deaths

Hospital sources said there had been fatalities but there have been conflicting reports as to how many and which side suffered them.

President Patasse
President Patasse was elected in 1993 after 12 years of military rule
One report said that seven presidential guards had been killed, but there has been no confirmation.

Sources close to the presidential guard said that they killed some of the attackers.

There were also reports that a civilian was killed during the fighting.

Monday's shooting comes after months of demonstrations against Mr Patasse over the failure to pay civil service salaries.

History of tension

The southern areas of the capital are populated largely by ethnic groups from the south of the republic. They have long had grievances against Mr Patasse, who comes from the north.

This is almost a carbon copy of events that unfolded in 1996 when southern troops mutinied against the head of state.

On that occasion France sent in military forces to evacuate foreign nationals and to intervene on the side of Mr Patasse.

United Nations troops sent to Bangui to prevent a repetition of the unrest were only withdrawn last year.

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See also:

23 May 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Central African Republic
20 Dec 00 | Africa
Uneasy calm on Bangui streets
11 Sep 99 | Africa
CAR presidential poll postponed
10 Sep 99 | Africa
CAR president survives air crash
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