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C.Africa troops recapture uranium mining town from rebels

By AFP
With the fighting in Bakouma, several thousand people fled to the town of Bangassou, which lies about 100km away and has a camp for internally displaced people.  By ALEXIS HUGUET (AFP/File)
With the fighting in Bakouma, several thousand people fled to the town of Bangassou, which lies about 100km away and has a camp for internally displaced people. By ALEXIS HUGUET (AFP/File)

Government troops supported by UN peacekeepers have recaptured a uranium mining town in southeast Central African Republic, more than two weeks after it was seized by rebels, an official said Thursday.

"The Central African army and MINUSCA have been in Bakouma since yesterday morning," Pierrette Benguere, prefect for the Mboumou region, told AFP.

The armed group which had taken over the town, the Popular Front for the Rebirth of Central Africa (FPRC), has left, she said.

The FPRC is one of the biggest militia groups that emerged from a mainly Muslim rebel movement called the Seleka.

In 2013, the Seleka overthrew President Francois Bozize, a Christian, triggering the rise of a militia called the anti-Balaka (anti-machete) from among the Christian majority.

Fearing a genocide, the former colonial ruler France intervened militarily under a UN mandate.

The Seleka were forced from power and in February 2016, former prime minister Faustin-Archange Touadera was elected president.

But Touadera, who is supported by more than 13,000 troops and police in the UN's MINUSCA mission, only controls a fraction of the country.

The rest is held by militias, who often fight over mineral resources.

On December 31, the FPRC and the Union for Peace in Central Africa (UPC), another Seleka offshoot, launched attacks on anti-Balaka fighters in Bakouma and then targeted government troops.

At least 10 people were killed, including a local figure known as "the Sultan."

The FPRC then took over the town, defying several assaults by the army and UN troops.

A source close to an anti-Balaka militia in Bangassou, a town about 100 kilometres (60 miles) away, on Thursday said Bakouma had been reoccupied "without a clash."

Several thousand people had fled Bakouma for the safety of Bangassou, sources said.

Talks between CAR's government and armed groups are scheduled to take place in Khartoum on January 24 under the aegis of the African Union.

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