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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 18 March, 2003, 12:49 GMT
Fear grips looted Bangui
President Patasse decorating General Bozize in September 2001
Bozize (r) once put down a coup against Patasse (l)
Initial euphoria has turned to fear in the Central African Republic where the rebel leader General Francois Bozize has seized control of the country.

"The shooting has stopped this morning but there is still looting. Rebels have been shooting the looters dead," a Bangui resident told BBC News Online by telephone.

"Administrative buildings, shops and schools remain closed. There are very few cars on the streets."

The BBC's Joseph Benamse in Bangui says 15 people have died since rebels marched into Bangui on Saturday afternoon.

France has sent 300 soldiers to protect foreign citizens in the country and reinforce peacekeepers sent by the Central African Economic Community (Cemac) last year.

Meanwhile, the foreign ministers of Gabon and Congo have arrived in Bangui for talks with General Bozize and the Cemac force, reports the French news agency, AFP.

General Bozize has called for more Cemac troops to be sent to Bangui in order to stabilise the station.

A spokesman for the African Union said it was recommending that CAR be suspended from the body.

Stranded president

Ousted President Ange-Felix Patasse remains in Cameroon after his plane was fired upon in Bangui as he returned home from a conference in Niger.

He has not yet issued a statement.

Anyone who wants to rule must seek the consent of the people
Joseph Kaifala, Sierra Leone

General Bozize, who has declared himself the new president, has suspended the constitution and dissolved both government and parliament.

According to local sources, he has met with the head of the army Colonel Antoine Gambi, the head of the police and the para-military gendarmerie, which indicates the military may be willing to back the rebel leader.

Meanwhile, locals are wondering whether General Bozize has backing from outside the CAR.

Witnesses say there are Arabic-speaking turbaned Chadian nationals among his supporters who are currently patrolling the streets.


The United States has asked France to help protect its citizens and backed a French call for "a real, all-inclusive dialogue" as a necessary step to end the cycle of unrest in the CAR.

A spokeswoman for the US State Department urged General Bozize "to take steps toward national reconciliation that will lead to a democratically elected government".

Mr Patasse, who was democratically elected in 1993, has weathered numerous coup attempts.

Following an outbreak of fighting last October, the country was divided into two - between rebels loyal to Mr Bozize, and government troops.

Government troops regained control of the country this year, but the rebels remained at large in rural areas in the north, and in southern Chad.

Joseph Benamse on BBC Network Africa
"The looting is still continuing."

CAR coup strongly condemned
17 Mar 03 |  Africa
Profile of Francois Bozize
16 Mar 03 |  Africa
Country profile: Central African Republic
05 Jul 02 |  Country profiles

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