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Monday, 28 October, 2002, 14:56 GMT
Libyan planes shell rebels in CAR
President Ange-Felix Patasse
Nothing has been heard from President Patasse
Fighting has intensified in Bangui, in the Central African Republic (CAR), with Libyan military planes shelling the rebel-held north of the capital.

The BBC's Joseph Benamse in Bangui says a Libyan plane bombed a truck carrying refugees fleeing the capital Bangui.

It is reported that at least 50 civilians have been killed in the fighting.

Rebels loyal to the former chief of staff, Francois Bozize, hold about a third of the capital - they are reported to be close to the palace of President Ange-Felix Patasse, and about 300 metres from the national assembly building.

Our correspondent says that since the fighting resumed on Monday morning, government forces and the rebels have failed to gain ground and have kept their positions.

The government of the CAR has urged the rebels to surrender, and said fighters from Chad were among the rebels.

General Bozize has called on President Ange-Felix Patasse to begin a dialogue with the opposition or step down.


Our correspondent says that more than 50,000 people have fled from the north of Bangui to the government-held south since the rebels attacked on Friday.

One of President Patasse's nephews is among the dead, a witness told the Reuters news agency.

Ex-army chief Francois Bozize
Bozize had been exiled to France
General Bozize's supporters are "heavily equipped", which can only be possible with "Chadian support", a source close to the CAR authorities told the French news agency AFP.

DR Congo

According to other reports, more rebels are waiting, 20 kilometres north of Bangui.

Our correspondent says that members of a rebel group from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), led by Jean-Pierre Bemba, is believed to be fighting on President Patasse's side.

Jean-Pierre Bemba
Bemba has denied any involvement
On Sunday, Mr Bemba denied that members of his Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC) had arrived from the DRC to back up loyalist forces.

Fighting has also been reported near the official residence of President Patasse, which is protected by both government forces and Libyan troops.

Our correspondent says the whereabouts of President Patasse are unknown, but the army says he is in a place of safety.


The fighting erupted after the rebels crossed the border to the north in Chad and attacked several towns on Friday.

Communication Minister Gabriel Jean Edouard Koyambounou said on Sunday that loyalist forces had killed a number of rebels, some of them fighters from neighbouring Chad.

Colonel Muammar Gaddafi
Gaddafi has sent troops to back Patasse
There has been no official reaction from the Chadian Government.

In an interview with the BBC, General Bozize confirmed that his supporters were behind the rebellion and called on President Patasse to begin a dialogue or step down.

General Bozize was the CAR's army chief until his dismissal a year ago. He then went to Chad with a group of supporters.

Three weeks ago General Bozize was given refuge by France - the former colonial power of both Chad and the CAR - in an effort to reduce tensions between the two countries.

But General Bozize returned to Chad on Sunday, according to the French AFP news agency.

Spate of coups

The CAR Government forces are backed by about 200 Libyan soldiers, as well as a newly-deployed contingent from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

France on Sunday condemned the uprising, and urged rebel forces to lay down their arms.

There have been several attempts to topple President Patasse in recent years, as well as mutinies by soldiers demanding their pay.

Libya sent troops into the CAR to put down a coup in May 2001, and they have remained there ever since.

At a regional summit in Gabon earlier this month, African leaders agreed to send soldiers to replace the Libyan forces.

BBC's Joseph Benamse
"The rebels are now trying to move towards the south"
Central African Republic

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