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Ex-Rebels ‘Contained’ in Central Africa Republic Capital

FILE - Seleka fighters take a break in Goya, Central African Republic, June 11, 2014.

Tensions appeared to have eased in the Central African Republic capital Friday after several days of a standoff between former rebels and international peacekeepers.

About 1,000 former combatants from the ex-rebel Seleka coalition have been living at the so-called Camp Beal in Bangui since the start of the year, when most Seleka fighters were forced out of the city by rival armed groups and international peacekeepers.

The authorities have been under pressure from the population to move the remaining ex-Seleka out of the city, where they would be less of a security risk.

After two weeks of violence in the city last month, the government, backed by French and U.N. peacekeepers, repeated its demand that the ex-Seleka relocate, amid rumors that they might also be forcibly disarmed.

The head of the U.N. police contingent in Bangui, Lusi Carrilho, told VOA the ex-Seleka reacted by erecting barricades on some key streets in Bangui.

Ex-Seleka members told local radio they rejected a government offer of about $25 each if they leave the camp. They also threatened to blow up an ammunition dump inside their camp, claiming they were ready for what they called "martyrdom."

Munitions experts reportedly said an explosion at the ammunition dump in Camp Beal could have been deadly for anyone within 400 meters of its perimeter, as well as for those inside.

The U.N., French and other EU peacekeepers, together with national security forces, succeeded in "containing" the ex-Seleka, says police commissioner Carrilho, and the standoff has been resolved for the moment.

Carrilho told VOA that negotiations between the government and the ex-rebels led to agreement on some points, and by late Thursday they were starting to take down the barricades.

Several observers, including an officer in the C.A.R. army told VOA the government paid off the ex-rebels to calm them down.

However, a humanitarian source said the Camp Beal issue is not yet resolved, and the next move may be for the government to tell the ex-Seleka where it wants them to relocate.