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Monday, 3 December, 2001, 17:09 GMT
CAR clashes mar peace efforts
President Ange-Felix Patasse
President Patasse has gone for talks in Sudan
Rebels from the Central African Republic have tightened their grip on the northern border town of Kabo after repulsing an assault by government troops.

Twenty-one soldiers were killed in the fighting on Sunday evening, a senior government official told the BBC's Joseph Benamsse in the capital, Bangui.


The renewed fighting comes as President Ange-Felix Patasse is in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, to take part in a mini-summit on the CAR with neighbouring heads of state.

A gathering of Central African leaders in Gabon, also expected to focus on the CAR crisis, has been postponed until Tuesday.

Renegade General Francois Bozize has not been invited to either meeting.

Our correspondent says that those government soldiers who were not killed in the attempt to recapture Kabo from forces loyal to General Bozize have run away.

Hundreds of people gathered at Bangui's Community Hospital on Monday, seeking information about their military relatives who had been sent to Kabo.

Fled north

In November, fierce fighting hit Bangui after a warrant of arrest was issued for General Bozize - the army's chief of staff until he was sacked in October.

It was alleged that he was involved in a failed coup attempt in May.

General Francois Bozize
Bozize is still in control of the border town of Kabo

He denies the charge.

General Bozize and hundreds of his soldiers under his command fled north into Chad after extra Libyan troops flew in to prop up Mr Patasse.

Libya had first intervened to quell the May uprising.

Fellow northerners

But the rebel troops then struck back, capturing the northern towns of Kabo and Batangafo without a fight.

The CAR wants Chad to extradite General Bozize to stand trial but the Chad authorities have so far refused, saying he is a political refugee.

The CAR has experienced numerous coups and mutinies since independence from France in 1960, many based on ethnic differences.

But President Ange Felix Patasse who came to power in 1993 and General Bozize are fellow northerners.

See also:

28 Nov 01 | Africa
CAR president agrees to talks
27 Nov 01 | Africa
CAR rebels seize towns
04 Dec 01 | Africa
CAR seeks rebel general
08 Nov 01 | Africa
CAR's rebel without a cause
28 May 01 | Africa
CAR 'coup attempt' fails
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