CAR

Central African Republic: Loyalist troops retake northwestern town, says president

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BANGUI, 20 February (IRIN) - Government and allied foreign troops have recaptured the rebel headquarters of Bossangoa, about 300 km northwest of the Central African Republic (CAR) capital, Bangui, President Ange-Felix Patasse has said in a broadcast on Radio France Internationale.
"In fact, Bossangoa has been under our control since this morning," Patasse said on Wednesday in a news conference in the French capital, Paris, a day ahead of the Franco-Africa summit, which he is attending.

The recapture of Bossangoa by government forces and their allies of the Mouvement de liberation du Congo from neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo is highly symbolic, as it is the birthplace of Francois Bozize, the former army chief of staff now leading the insurgents. It is also the last important town before the Chadian border, about 150 km farther north.

This recent development comes just days after the army recaptured Sibut (184 km northeast of Bangui), Bozoum (384 km northwest of Bangui) and Kaga Bandoro (342 km north of Bangui). The government spokesman, Minister of State Gabriel Jean Edouard Koyambounou, had announced on 14 February that all the provinces should be freed before the holding of a national dialogue provisionally scheduled for March.

Since Monday, local newspapers have been reporting that the army and its Congolese allies are committing excesses against Muslims in the recaptured cities. They say the victims are Chadians, as well as the CAR nationals, suspected of being be rebel accomplices. As a result of these government counterattacks, local residents have been fleeing to the northwards towards Chad.

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