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CAR Rebel Leader Declares Autonomous Muslim State

FILE - Seleka rebels are seen driving through Bangui, Central African Republic.

A Muslim rebel leader in Central African Republic has declared an autonomous state in the country's north, further defying efforts to end three years of bloody instability.

Noureddine Adam, the leader of the Seleka rebel faction that overthrew President Francois Bozize in 2013, proclaimed his stronghold the Republic of Logone in a statement released Monday from the town of Kaba-Bangoro.

The declaration could derail the results of a referendum held Sunday on a proposed constitution for the small nation of nearly five million people. Voting in some areas was disrupted by sporadic violence, prompting United Nations peacekeepers to intervene and bolster security. The referendum was a prelude to national elections that are planned for December 27.

Dominique Said Panguindji, a spokesman for C.A.R.'s transitional government, issued a statement Tuesday urging the international community and U.N. forces in the country "to do everything possible to neutralize the capacity of these terrorists to do harm."

U.N. peacekeepers took down the rebel republic's flag after it was raised over the local police station in the northern town of N'Dele.

The U.S. State Department issued a statement Tuesday praising the "successful completion" of the constitutional referendum, as it showed Central Africans' "clear desire to decide their country’s future at the ballot box rather than allowing those with weapons to determine the future of their nation."

Bozize's overthrow by Muslim rebels led to brutal reprisals by Christian anti-balaka militias against Muslim citizens.