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BBC West Africa correspondent David Bamford
"Loyalist forces have been systematically shelling the south of the city for much of the day"
 real 28k

Sunday, 3 June, 2001, 00:38 GMT 01:38 UK
Army occupy CAR general's house
Bangui protesters
Bangui has frequently been the scene of unrest
The government in the Central African Republic says its troops have occupied the home of General Andre Kolingba, the presumed leader of Monday's failed coup.

General  Andre Kolingba, ruler of the CAR until 1993
General Andre Kolingba has been charged with insurrection and murder
But a presidential spokesman said that General Kolingba - the country's former military ruler - had escaped before the troops arrived.

The army, backed by Libyan troops, has been hunting down rebel soldiers in a suburb in the south of the capital, Bangui.

Thousands more civilians are reported to be fleeing the city as government troops used mortar shells and machine-gun fire in an apparent effort to force the ethnic Yakoma community to hand over the General Kolingba.

Eyewitnesses say casualties are mounting, with people seeking refuge in diplomatic and church compounds. There are reports of atrocities, including the decapitation of some civilians.

A BBC correspondent in the region says in previous army mutinies, President Ange-Felix Patasse has let the situation rest at this stage. But this time he seems determined to eradicate the threat of future insurrections by trying to arrest General Kolingba.

Strewn bodies

General Kolingba, who ruled from 1981 to 1993 before Mr Patasse defeated him in a multi-party election, is himself a Yakoma, a tribe originating from the south of the country.

Eyewitnesses say that soldiers have killed, and in some cases decapitated, a number of civilians from the same tribe.

The number of dead is not known, though residents say streets are strewn with corpses after the most intense barrage of gunfire since the unrest began on Monday.

The loyalist forces have continued to round up mutinous soldiers, most of whom have thrown away their uniforms in an effort to escape retribution.

Earlier, Mr Patasse condemned action by his armed forces against civilians.

"There were some inappropriate actions and mistakes during the operations in certain parts of Bangui. We condemn in the firmest manner what went on," presidential spokesman Prosper Ndouba said.

Several people were killed and many injured in clashes earlier in the week, which later spread to an adjoining area in the east of the city.

Kolingba charged

Mr Kolingba, who has acknowledged his involvement in the rebellion but denied it was a coup attempt, has been charged with insurrection and murder.

President Patasse
President Patasse has regained control of Bangui
He has been blamed for an attempt to kill President Patasse during Monday's attacks on his official residence, in which several presidential guards were shot dead.

The CAR has a history of military uprisings, with three major rebellions against Mr Patasse since 1996.

Low or delayed pay has been a main complaint of soldiers in the rebellions.

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See also:

02 Jun 01 | Africa
Troops regain control in CAR
30 May 01 | Africa
CAR: Plagued by mutinies
29 May 01 | Africa
Civilians flee Bangui fighting
28 May 01 | Africa
CAR 'coup attempt' fails
23 May 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Central African Republic
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