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February 27, 2014

AU: CAR Anti-Balaka Leader Not Arrested

by VOA News

Peacekeepers in the Central African Republic have retracted a report that a leader of the anti-Balaka militia movement had been arrested.

The African Union mission in the C.A.R., known as MISCA, said Wednesday that Patrick Edouard Ngaissona had been arrested by authorities in the neighboring Republic of Congo. A MISCA spokesman, Eloi Yao, now tells VOA's French to Africa Service, however, that Congolese authorities arrested a different man with the same name as the anti-Balaka leader.

Ngaissona has described himself as the political coordinator of the anti-Balaka, who have driven tens of thousands of Muslims in the C.A.R. from their homes and neighborhoods during the past few months.

Ngaissona and several other anti-Balaka commanders are on a list of wanted persons by C.A.R. prosecutors. The transitional government is weak, though, and appears to have little authority in Bangui or elsewhere in the country.

The militias formed in response to the mostly Muslim Seleka rebels who toppled the C.A.R.'s president a year ago and went on a nationwide spree of killing and looting.

The group's name means "machete proof" or invincible.

U.N. officials and human rights groups have warned the militia are carrying out a type of ethnic or sectarian cleansing, and have called for the deployment of more troops to protect Muslim civilians and halt rampant violence.

France has about 2,000 troops in the country, while the AU has about 5,000.

According to the U.N. refugee agency, more than 288,000 Central Africans have fled to neighboring countries since violence began in December 2012. Another 700,000 are displaced within the country.