Central African rebels take control of 2 towns

March 13, 2013 - 8:29 AM

BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) — Rebels who signed a peace deal with the government two months ago, seized control of two towns in the southeast of Central African Republic, threatening to undo the country's fragile peace, officials said on Wednesday.

Government spokesman Crepin Mboli-Goumba condemned the attacks on the towns of Gambo and Bangassou, located 600 and 700 kilometers (370 and 430 miles) southeast of the capital, Bangui. "The government firmly condemns these attacks. It is absolutely incomprehensible that the Seleka movement would undertake this kind of attack, when we just signed the accord with them in January," he said.

A government soldier based in the town of Bangassou at the time of the attack on Monday said that after a brief exchange of fire, government troops retreated.

"The soldiers belonging to Seleka launched their first attack at around 6 a.m. on the town of Gambo," said the soldier, who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press. "The second attack occurred a little after 8 a.m. against the town of Bangassou. There was an exchange of fire, and government forces retreated."

Seleka, a coalition which includes several rebel groups, began its offensive on Dec. 10. The fighters were led by members of rebel groups which had signed a 2007 peace deal with Central African Republic, allowing them to join the regular army in return for putting down their arms. They claimed that the 2007 accord had not been properly implemented and by January, they had come to within a 100 miles of the capital (160 kilometers) after seizing a dozen towns along the way.