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French Officials Say CAR Rebels Lose Last Town


French military officials are saying rebels in the Central African Republic have lost the last northern town they were holding, nearly two weeks into a counter-offensive. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from our regional bureau in Dakar.

French media quoted French military officials as saying the Central African Republic army was able to reclaim the northern town of Ouadda Djalle, without any rebel resistance.

Under the auspices of an agreement with the government in Bangui, the former colonial power France has been providing ground and air support, including the use of Mirage fighter jets, to push back the insurgency.

Officials say it is unclear where the rebels went, or whether they are regrouping.

Rebels who have been reached previously by satellite phone were not immediately available.

They went on a new offensive, seizing northern towns since late October from areas near Sudan and Chad. The CAR rebels, known as the Union of Democratic Forces for Rally, say they want to impose a national dialogue, amid bad governance by former coup leader turned elected President Francois Bozize.

The government accuses the rebels of being backed by Sudan, amid alleged efforts to start a regional war. Sudan denies this.

An analyst with the London-based Control Risks group, Chris Melville, says whatever Sudan's role has been, France has been a key player in recent developments.

"Rebel forces have reported that French forces have fired on their positions without provocation," said Melville. "There also seems to be some sort of leakage of information from the French government itself, which, accidentally, we think, admitted to the presence of special operation units."

Another CAR analyst, Paul Melly, says he does not believe the Bozize government is at risk. But he says the interior of the country is prone to such insurgencies and widespread banditry.

"Even if the population is broadly accepting of the government, and I think we can say it is, the state does not have the means to deliver the stability," noted Melly. "It is not so much a failed state, as almost an absent state in large parts of the country."

The poorly trained and equipped CAR army is also being backed by a military force deployed by the Central African Economic and Monetary Union.

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