Skip to main content

Rebels assault 2 towns in Central African Republic despite peace talk plans

By Michael Martinez and Nana Karikari-apau, CNN
updated 3:17 PM EST, Sat January 5, 2013
Chadian soldiers, part of a convoy of the FOMAC multinational force of central African states, near Damara on January 2, 2013.
Chadian soldiers, part of a convoy of the FOMAC multinational force of central African states, near Damara on January 2, 2013.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Rebels attack two towns, searching for hiding civilians
  • NEW: Peace talks are planned for Thursday
  • U.N. says armed groups are forcing children to fight and serve as sex slaves
  • Both opposition and pro-government militias are recruiting child soldiers, it says

(CNN) -- Rebels attacked two towns Saturday in the Central African Republic even as government officials planned for peace talks next week, authorities said.

Meanwhile, opposition and pro-government militias are recruiting child soldiers as the country faces a rebellion in the north, the United Nations warned.

Rebels demanding the resignation of President Francois Bozize have seized various towns and threatened to head to the capital of Bangui.

The Seleka rebel coalition assaulted the towns of Alindao and Kouango in a direction toward the capital from Bambari, where they already seized control, said Josue Binoua, minister of decentralization and territorial administration.

The rebels launched their offensive about 1 a.m. Saturday, said Jules Gauthier Ngbapo, a spokesman for Binoua.

"They are shouting and asking people to come out," Ngbapo said. "The rebels tell civilians that they are there to protect them."

But fearful residents are hiding. The rebels sent spies on motor bikes, and then troops rode into the two towns on large vehicles, Ngbapo said. They searched for people, he said.

"Civilians are afraid, and most of them have fled the town and are now hiding in the forests, but the rebels are still patrolling the towns, waiting for the innocent people to come out," Ngbapo said.

"The rebels are shooting randomly, destroying properties and have been raping civilians," he said.

CNN was unable to confirm government claims about the occupation of the towns.

Meanwhile, the foreign ministers from the Economic Community of Central African States will meet Tuesday in the Gabon capital of Libreville to set an agenda for peace talks, said Placide Ibouanga Ndinga, spokesman for the Economic Community.

The Seleka rebel coalition, opposition party officials, private sector representatives, U.N. officials and President Francois Bozize are all expected to participate in the talks scheduled for Thursday, said Ndinga.

But officials in the Central Africa Republic questioned how peace talks could commence as rebels attacked.

"How can there be peace if the rebels are looting, raping and abducting our civilians?" Ngbapo said.

Bozize has said he will not seek re-election in 2016, Ngbapo said.

As the government scrambles to quash the rebellion, alarm is growing as children are separated from their relatives.

"Reliable sources have informed us that children are newly being recruited among their ranks. These reports are of serious concern," said Souleymane Diabate, the U.N. children agency's representative in the nation.

Diplomats seek progress on Central African Republic crisis

Armed groups are forcing children under age 18 to fight, carry supplies and serve as sex slaves, the agency said Friday.

Before the conflict started last month, 2,500 children were linked to various armed groups. That number is expected to rise as the recent conflict continues, officials said.

About 300,000 children have been affected by the rebellion, including family separation, sexual violence, displacement and lack of access to education and health facilities.

The crisis started in December, when Seleka accused the president of reneging on a peace deal and demanded that he step down. They seized towns in the north and threatened to march to the capital, although they appear to have halted their advance. MikHey, Hey

Bozize has called on the international community, including the United States and France, to help stave off the rebellion.

Ex-child-soldier: 'Shooting became just like drinking a glass of water'

CNN's Faith Karimi contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:26 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
updated 7:09 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
updated 1:01 PM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
updated 10:48 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
updated 12:07 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
updated 7:15 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
updated 7:06 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
updated 7:37 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
updated 2:18 AM EST, Fri February 8, 2013
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.
ADVERTISEMENT