24 March 2013
Last updated at 09:07
Fighting has broken out again in the Central African Republic’s capital, with unconfirmed reports suggesting rebels have taken the vacated palace of President Francois Bozize.
After an overnight lull, gunfire and explosions were reported on Sunday.
Seleka rebels claimed to have seized the president’s palace, AFP reported.
The fighters, who have been involved in an on-off rebellion since December, accuse the president of failing to honour a peace deal.
One of the rebel leaders on the ground, Colonel Djouma Narkoyo, was quoted by AFP as saying: “We have taken the presidential palace. Bozize was not there.”
He said the rebels were planning to move on to the national radio station in Bangui where rebel leader Michel Djotodia planned to make a speech.
A worker at a hotel near the presidential palace was quoted by Reuters as saying: “The [rebels] are in the city centre now where the presidential palace is… There’s a lot of gunfire around the palace and even here where we are.”
Former colonial power France has called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, and reportedly sent troops to secure the airport.
On Saturday, French officials warned their nationals in the country to stay at home.
The rebels joined a power-sharing government in January after talks brokered by regional leaders to end a rebellion they launched last year.
But the deal quickly collapsed, with the rebels saying their demands, including the release of political prisoners, had not been met.
BBC Africa editor Richard Hamilton says government soldiers have been unable to fend off the rebels because Mr Bozize fears being overthrown in a coup and is therefore wary of having a strong army.
He came to power himself in a military coup in 2003.
CAR has been hit by a series of rebellions since independence from France in 1960.
It is one of the poorest countries in Africa, despite its considerable mineral resources.
Central African Republic: Rebels ‘at president’s palace’ – BBC News
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