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CAR Government Troops Seize Mutineers' Camp - 2001-11-07

Government troops in the Central African Republic have attacked and taken control of positions held by mutinous soldiers in the north of the capital, Bangui. However, the loyalist troops have not captured the head of the mutineers, whose whereabouts are still unknown.

Presidential spokesman Prosper Ndouba told VOA the loyalist soldiers met little resistance in their attack Wednesday on a north Bangui military camp held by the mutineers.

Mr. Ndouba said the mutineers' leader, former army chief General Francois Bozize, has fled and is now on the run.

On Saturday, soldiers loyal to General Bozize blocked an attempt by Central African Republic government troops to detain him in connection with a coup attempt against President Ange-Felix Patasse last May. General Bozize is widely credited with helping put down that coup attempt and has denied any involvement with the May plotters.

General Bozize's soldiers set up roadblocks, cutting access to parts of north Bangui. The two sides exchanged sporadic gun and mortar fire before Wednesday's attack.

The chief U.N. representative in Bangui, Lamine Cisse, had been trying to negotiate a peaceful end to the crisis. Late Wednesday, he said there is still room for negotiation, despite government allegations that General Bozize was trying to stage a coup, supposedly with foreign backing.

General Cisse said the attack on the mutineers' camp does not amount to a failure of mediation. However, he added the allegation of a coup attempt is a new factor that changes what the U.N. mission had been trying to accomplish.

However, according to Mr. Ndouba, the presidential spokesman, there was no point in holding any more mediation talks. Mr. Ndouba said General Cisse's mediation was getting bogged down, because of General Bozize's excessive demands, so that talks were going around in circles and no progress was being made.

A delegation from the Organization of African Unity, as well as the foreign ministers of Libya, Chad, and Burkina Faso had been expected to fly to the Central African Republic to take part in further mediation talks this week.