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CAR Drops Charges Against Ex-Army Chief - 2001-12-26

Officials in the Central African Republic (CAR) say they have released an unspecified number of prisoners linked to a failed coup attempt in May. The reported release comes after the Central African government this week made a surprise announcement saying it has dropped an investigation against former army chief General Francois Bozize the man accused of plotting the attempted coup.

Observers say the announcement appears to be a move by the government to diffuse tensions between forces loyal to the former army chief, who was sacked in October, and the government of President Ange-Felix Patasse. Those tensions have sparked skirmishes in recent weeks between mutinying soldiers who support General Bozize and government forces loyal to President Patasse.

General Bozize fled to neighboring Chad after the Patasse government linked him to a failed coup attempt in May.

The Central African government demanded that Chad extradite General Bozize. But Chadian authorities refused, saying they considered the general a political refugee. The impasse has raised tensions between the two countries. Both sent troop reinforcements to their common border last week.

The Central African government gave no specific reason for its decision to drop the investigation against General Bozize and others who it claimed were involved in the attempted coup earlier this year. In remarks over state radio, the head of a commission investigating the coup attempt said it now considers the continuation of proceedings "inopportune."