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Violence Spreads to Northeast CAR with Renewed Rebel Attack


In the Central African Republic (CAR), rebels attacked a village in the northeast, near Sudan's Darfur region early Saturday. This latest attack comes as the United Nations continues negotiations to send peacekeepers to the area, where the borders of CAR, Chad and Sudan meet. Phuong Tran has more from VOA's Central and West Africa bureau in Dakar.

Central African military sources say hundreds of government troops are defending the remote northeastern town of Birao against an attack by rebels with the Union of Democratic Forces Coalition.

Rebels had occupied the town late last year, until they were pushed out by a government assault, led by French forces and fighter jets.

Analyst Alex Vines, head of Africa programs at London-based Chatham House, says the latest Central African rebel attack is part of a pattern of violence in the ungoverned space bordering Sudan.

"This particular town is likely to come and go, but it shows the insecurities in the area, and why this is an issue of international concern," he said.

The United Nations is trying to send peacekeepers to stabilize the border area near Sudan's Darfur region, where conflict has spilled over into both Chad and CAR. But leaders of Chad and Sudan have opposed outside forces.

Vines says renewed Central African rebel fighting in the northeast worsens an already tense situation.

"These are ungoverned spaces basically," he added. "There has been a proliferation of small arms and light weapons. So it is worrying."

The barren frontier region is poorly policed. There are about 1,000 active soldiers, which leaves the Central African border wide open to armed groups and arms smuggling.

Many residents who fled earlier fighting in the village of Birao had only recently returned to find their homes burned and looted.

The United Nations estimates tens-of-thousands of Central Africans have fled to Chad and Cameroon.

Many have been squeezed into refugee camps in southern Chad, crowded by hundreds-of-thousands of Sudanese refugees from the Darfur conflict, which began in 2003.

Central African President Francois Bozize has accused Sudan of backing the northeastern rebels, which Sudan denies.

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