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Friday, November 10, 2006

Rebels claim to capture 2nd African town

BANGUI, Central African Republic - Rebel fighters in the Central African Republic claimed they have captured a northern town Friday, the second to fall to shadowy insurgents in less than two weeks.

Rebel spokesman Abakar Saboune said rebels seized Ouadda-Djalle before dawn "after a fierce battle with the regular army."

Saboune gave no casualty figures. Government and military officials could not be reached for comment and there was no independent confirmation of the claim.

Ouadda-Djalle is about 110 miles south of Birao, which rebels captured Oct. 29.

The northern part of Central African Republic is a region that has been destabilized for much of the year by the unrest in Sudan's Darfur. Unidentified armed groups have launched sporadic attacks on military installations in remote areas, displacing tens of thousands of people from their homes.

The rebels say they are fighting to protest government corruption and mismanagement by the administration of President Francois Bozize, who was swept to power in 2003 when his own rebels overran the capital and ousted President Ange-Felix Patasse.

Bozize went on to win elections in May 2005. Patasse now lives in exile in the West African nation of Togo.

Central African Republic, a nation of 3.6 million people, has suffered decades of army revolts, coups and rebellions since the nation gained independence from France in 1960.

The rebels have called on Bozize's government to hold a national conference to discuss the country's fate.

Saboune said the government has not responded. "There is no alternative. We have to continue with the military option, as President Bozize and his regime are opposed to dialogue," said Saboune, who once served as an army captain under Bozize.

Bozize accuses Sudan of backing the rebels, and government officials say the rebels crossed the border from Sudan's troubled Darfur region to launch their first attack in October. Sudan has denied the charges.

Little is known about the rebels. Saboune has said his fighters had been in Central African Republic since April, when they entered from a neighboring country he declined to name. Central African Republic has borders with Sudan, Chad, Congo, Republic of Congo and Cameroon.

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