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Thursday, 31 October, 2002, 17:55 GMT
Looting in CAR capital
President Ange-Felix Patasse
Nothing has been heard from President Patasse
Relative calm has returned to the Central African Republic capital, Bangui, after government forces retook all areas from rebels loyal to a former army chief.

The assailants are on the run. We are trying to track them down.

Government spokesman
But Congolese rebels allied to President Ange-Felix Patasse are reported to have been on a looting spree in the northern suburbs of Bangui.

The army, with the support of Libyan troops, launched its offensive on Wednesday - six days after fighting began between the insurgents supporting Francois Bozize and troops loyal to President Patasse.

Reports say that the army, supported by Libyan troops, are hunting down rebels who are retreating northwards.


The BBC's Joseph Benamse in Bangui says that some residents returning to the north of the city have been forced to leave again by Congolese rebels who have been looting shops and homes, raping women and beating up civilians there.

He says the rebels retreated from Bangui, taking with them their equipment and a number of hostages they were holding.

The hostages include captured soldiers, senior government officials and President Patasse's spokesman.

Officials of the loyalist forces told our correspondent that the rebels' withdrawal was "tactical" and that they believe they have a base between Bangui and the Chadian border.

"The assailants are on the run," government spokesman Gabriel Koyambounou said. "We are trying to track them down."

Mr Koyambounou said President Patasse - who has made no statement since the fighting flared up on Friday - was still in the capital and doing well.

Foreign involvement

France earlier confirmed that General Bozize, who has been in exile there, was back in Paris after a brief visit to Chad - a country accused of supporting his rebellion.

Ex-army chief Francois Bozize
Bozize had been exiled to France

Government forces have been supported by Libyan troops since a coup attempt against President Patasse in May 2001.

The CAR army has also received backing from rebel fighters from the Democratic Republic of Congo, belonging to the MLC faction led by Jean-Pierre Bemba.

Since the fighting started, Bangui residents have been unable to travel to neighbouring villages to buy food.

Our correspondent says that a tragedy looms if they are not able to get more supplies within the next couple of days.


On Tuesday, France confirmed that General Bozize was back in Paris, after a short visit to Chad.

The French Government said measures would be taken to prevent General Bozize using France as a base to destabilise his own country.

Jean-Pierre Bemba
Bemba has denied any involvement

The Government of the Central African Republic has accused Chad of supporting the rebels.

But the Chadian authorities say that they are not involved in the fighting.

Our correspondent says that many have been killed in the fighting in Bangui including civilians, rebels and Chadian soldiers fighting alongside them, as well as loyalist troops and Libyan and Congolese fighters who are giving them support.

Central African Republic

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