"The decision to release them was taken by the two heads of state on 15 February," Panguindji said. He added that the prisoners had been released on 17 February.
Chadian President Idriss Deby toured the CAR on 15 February and launched what is perceived as a reconciliation process with his CAR counterpart, Ange-Felix Patasse. The prisoner release is being seen as another sign of thawing relations between Chad and CAR. "The gesture is meant to be reciprocal," Panguindji said.
The prisoners had initially been arrested in Bangui's suburbs because investigators wanted to check reports that they were infiltrators, Panguindji said. Seven of them escaped captivity and were never caught.
He said that those released included nine Chadian refugees, six Chadians with Chadian identity cards, two Chadians with CAR residence permits, 13 with Muslim names and claiming to be CAR citizens and 37 CAR Muslims with regular identity papers. The nationalities of the rest were not identified.
Thousands of Chadians have been living in the CAR for generations and many have already acquired citizenship. There has been tension between the Chadian community and the indigenous people ever since November 2001, when the former army chief of staff, Francois Bozize, fled to Chad with a part of the army. Since then, Chadians have been regarded as rebel accomplices.
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