Rebels Capture Central African Republic Capital, President Flees
Rebels in Central African Republic seized the riverside capital Bangui in fierce fighting on Sunday, forcing President Francois Bozize to flee and sowing confusion over who ruled the mineral-rich heart of Africa.
At least nine South African soldiers were killed trying to prevent the rebels taking Bangui, a Reuters witness said, dealing a blow to Pretoria’s attempt to stabilize the chaotic central African nation and assert its influence in the region.
The Seleka rebel coalition resumed hostilities on Thursday in the former French colony and quickly swept south to Bangui with the aim of ousting Bozize, whom it accused of breaking a January peace deal to integrate its fighters into the army.
“We have taken the presidential palace,” Eric Massi, a Seleka spokesman, told Reuters by telephone early on Sunday.
Government officials confirmed the rebels had captured the city of more than 600,000 people, which lies on the banks of the Oubangi river bordering Democratic Republic of Congo.