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International Criminal Court to Investigate War Crimes in Central African Republic

The International Criminal Court has begun investigating alleged war crimes committed in the Central African Republic during 2002 and 2003.

Court prosecutors Tuesday indicated the probe will focus on allegations of sexual violence, including hundreds of reported rapes.

The rapes and a number of killings allegedly occurred as forces of then-president Ange-Felix Patasse battled rebels led by the current president, Francois Bozize.

The Central African Republic asked the court to intervene in late 2004, saying it could not investigate the cases itself.

At the time, the government named several suspects, including Mr. Patasse and his ally during the fighting, Congolese rebel leader-turned vice president, Jean-Pierre Bemba.

Tuesday, Bemba denied any responsibility for the alleged crimes.

Mr. Patasse currently lives in exile in Togo, while Bemba is in Portugal, where he is receiving medical treatment. Bemba was an unsuccessful candidate in Congo's presidential elections last year.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.