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Comoros Government Claims Capture of Three Anjouan Rebels

The government of Comoros says its troops have captured three rebel soldiers during a brief incursion onto the breakaway island of Anjouan. The incident occurred as African Union troops are arriving for a possible military assault on the island. VOA's Scott Bobb reports from our Southern Africa Bureau in Johannesburg.

The spokesman for the Comoros government, Education Minister Abdourahim Said Bacar, told VOA the Comoros military made a brief incursion Tuesday onto the breakaway island of Anjouan, which is controlled by dissident Mohamed Bacar.

"There has been a very quick military intervention in Anjouan and three military officers from [Mohamed] Bacar's militia have been arrested and taken back to Moheli," he said.

The central government on Moheli Island has been gearing up for a military intervention on Anjouan since dissident Mohamed Bacar rejected diplomatic efforts to end the stalemate.

The African Union, Arab League, European Union, and United States announced their support for military intervention after the dissident leader last month rejected their proposal to hold internationally supervised elections or go into exile.

The first contingent of 1,700 troops from Tanzania, Senegal, and Sudan began arriving in Comoros this week as part of an AU force with logistical support from Libya.

Mohamed Bacar was elected president of Anjouan Island seven years ago under a union constitution that grants considerable autonomy and a separate president to each of the three islands in the archipelago. He was re-elected last year in elections that he organized and which were not recognized internationally.

Government spokesman Said Bacar says the rebel leader has committed serious human rights violations and the Comoros government wants to put him on trial.

"What is happening in Anjouan is inhuman," he said. "So therefore, we hope that [Mohamed] Bacar will be captured and [taken] to court because of his crimes against humanity in Anjouan."

The government says if the military is successful it will establish an interim government and organize new elections on Anjouan. It also plans to investigate allegations of corruption against the rebels.

During its 32 years of independence, Comoros has experienced several attempted secessions and more than a dozen coups or attempted coups, some of them led by foreign mercenaries.