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C.African Republic capital falls to rebels, Bozize flees

by FP Staff  Mar 24, 2013 20:15 IST

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BANGUI (Reuters) - Rebels in Central African Republic seized control of the country's riverside capital Bangui on Sunday, forcing President Francois Bozize to flee into neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, government officials said.

The Seleka rebel coalition resumed hostilities this week in the mineral-rich former French colony, vowing to oust Bozize, whom it accused of breaking a January peace agreement to integrate its fighters into the army.

"The rebels control the town," said presidency spokesman Gaston Mackouzangba. "I hope there will not be any reprisals."

Government spokesman Crepin Mboli-Goumba said the Seleka rebels controlled all the strategic locations in the city.

A presidential advisor, who asked not to be named, said Bozize had crossed the Oubangi river into Congo on Sunday morning as rebel forces headed for the presidential palace. Bozize had seized power in a 2003 military coup.

"The palace has just fallen. We have the palace," Eric Massi, a spokesman for Seleka, told Reuters by telephone from Paris.

The rebels fought their way to the northern suburbs of the riverside capital late on Saturday before an overnight lull in the fighting. But residents said heavy weapons fire erupted across the city around 8 AM (0700 GMT).

(Additional by Daniel Flynn and David Lewis in Dakar, and Ange Aboa in Lome; Writing by Joe Bavier)

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