BANGUI— A large group of ex-rebel fighters appears to have gone missing in the Central African Republic, according to the African Union military mission in the country.
A spokesman for the African Union mission says a number of combatants from Seleka, the largely Muslim ex-rebel movement, left the C.A.R. capital over the last two days with a convoy of AU Chadian troops, heading towards the north of the country .
But spokesman Eloi Yao said when the Chadians arrived at Bossangoa, 350 kilometers north of Bangui, the Seleka fighters were no longer with them.
Numerous reports have suggested many of the Seleka are in fact Chadian or Sudanese mercenaries, so they may have felt the departure of AU troops was a signal for them to leave too.
AU Chadian troops have in the past two months been accused of taking sides with the Seleka in their fight against largely Christian militias known as anti-Balaka.
Yao said there are estimates of hundreds of Seleka leaving Bangui with the Chadians this week. But most probably remain in Bangui, he said. Their number was put at 6,000.
A military spokesman for the Seleka in Bangui, Mahamat Doungba, said in an interview with VOA that the soldiers want to join the C.A.R. army.
He says all their fighters are ready to join a national army. Some, he said, are also ready to be disarmed and demobilized, while others are determined to join the army because they want to serve their country.
Doungba was asked what the foreign fighters with the Seleka intend to do.
They have all left, he replied. All those who are here now, Doungba said, are Central Africans. All the foreigners have already left.
It is not clear whether the Seleka combatants who left Bangui are leaving the country or have taken up positions in towns to the north of Bangui.
Rebels still control strategic towns across the country, but have pulled out of some towns in the west where they have been coming under attack from the anti-Balaka militia.
A new government was announced Tuesday, consisting of 20 ministers, including seven women, three former members of the Seleka alliance, and one individual associated with the anti-Balaka.
Observers agree the new ministers are mostly technocrats chosen for their expertise. A few were ministers in previous governments, but not many seem to be party political appointments. The new interim president and prime minister are not themselves party politicians.
A spokesman and self-proclaimed military coordinator of the anti-Balaka, former government minister Joachin Kokate, told VOA that the movement wants the crisis in the C.A.R. to end.
He says our members are in an emotional state, but movement leaders are calling on them to stay calm. He says he is sure there will be a response from the head of state or the prime minister whereby everyone on both sides will find an occupation so as to end this crisis, which, he said, has gone on long enough.
But an unconfirmed report said at least seven people were killed Tuesday in Bangui, and several others died Monday, while other attacks, particularly against the Muslim minority, are reported in the provinces.