BANGUI, May 17 (Reuters) - Seven people died in a clash between rebels in the remote north of the Central African Republic (CAR) and Chadian bandits, a rebel officer said late on Saturday.
The fighting took place on Friday, some 380 km (240 miles) north of the CAR capital Bangui, after villagers complained to the rebels that the army was failing to protect them from the Chadian bandits, who were stealing cattle.
Rich in gold, diamonds and uranium, CAR is one of Africa's most isolated countries where a weak government struggles to end several internal rebellions and is battling the spill-over of instability from neighbouring Sudan and Chad.
"The battle was hard. They were well armed but thankfully for us, we held our ground," Lieutenant Job Nodjimangom, an officer in the APRD rebel group, which is fighting against the CAR government in northwest, told Reuters late on Saturday.
"We killed six attackers, took two prisoners, killed six cattle and we recovered four Kalashnikov (assault rifles) and three horses," he added.
One rebel had been killed in the attack, which the APRD rebels launched against the Oudda tribesmen from Chad on the request of Central African villagers who were frustrated that CAR's army had not protected them, Nodjimangom said. The APRD is one of several rebel groups that signed up to a peace deal in December aimed at ending years of civil strife.
But the rebellion, fuelled by bandits, often coming from neighbouring countries, continues to simmer despite plans to demobilise and disarm rebels ahead of elections in 2010.
(Reporting by Paul-Marin Ngoupana; Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Matthew Jones)
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