CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Civilians flee clashes in the north BANGUI

Thousands of people have fled their homes around the town of Wandago in northern Central African Republic over the past three weeks after an outbreak of fighting between government troops and rebels, witnesses said. Humanitarian officials in Bangui said they had reports of people fleeing the conflict, but aid workers were not immediately able to confirm the number of people involved. Jacques Gonemandji, a motorist who arrived in Bangui from Kaga-Bandoro, a town near Wandago, said on Saturday thousands of people had run into the bush or sought refuge in neighbouring towns. “There are thousands of them who left their villages to avoid being caught by fighting between armed bandits and the regular army in the region,” he said. Some villagers who could not move southwards had fled to neighbouring Chad, he added. Fighting erupted afresh after the army sought to flush out rebels who have been operating in the area since the end of July. Army spokesman Lt. Benjamin Banga-Bekoue said late on Sunday the army was battling “armed bandits” and that a junior army officer had been killed in a rebel ambush on Friday. An army sergeant was killed in another ambush earlier last week, he added.

The latest attacks on the army appear to confirm widespread speculation that the rebel group Arme Populaire pour la Restauration de la Rpublique et de la dmocratie (APRD) is active in the northwest. On 2 October, L’Hirondelle, an independent daily, published a communiqu from the APRD that claimed 22 government troops had been killed in three different encounters with APRD fighters in the north since 23 September. The APRD is headed by Bedaya N’Djadder, a former gendarme who defected from the service. Missionaries in the northwestern town of Bozoum, capital of Ouham-Penda Province, said armed men in military uniform were operating in the area. On 27 September, armed raiders attacked a theological college in Bata, 7 km east of Bozoum. Following the attack, the head of the college, Franois Ngoumape, estimated the number of assailants at about 30. Independent sources then said that 10 villages were set on fire, allegedly by members of the presidential guard, around the town of Paoua in Ouham-Penda Province. Some of the burnt villages were Beboura, Korozian, Botona, Begake, Bedamara, Bendengui and Kebe. The presidential guard denied involvement in the arson attacks. jb/jn/oss/mw [ENDS] This material comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources

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