Central African Republic rebels claim control of key northern town
Rebels in the Central African Republic on Sunday claimed to control the key northern town of Ndele, where they launched an attack last week.
"We are maintaining our positions in Ndele, we control the entire town," Michel Djotodia, head of a dissident wing of the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR), told AFP by telephone.
"We have called on residents not to be afraid of us. Our demands are directed to the authorities in Bangui," he added.
The rebels have called on the authorities to respect a 2007 peace agreement, accusing the government of failing to implement promised measures to lift them out of poverty, Djotodia said.
"The president is acting in bad faith. He gave his word and he isn't keeping it. That is why we launched these attacks," Djotodia said.
The UFDR claimed the attack last Monday on Ndele, a town of between 15 000 and 20 000 inhabitants, and on the northeastern towns of Sam Ouandja and Ouadda, some 200 kilometres away.
Ndele, close to the Chadian border, lies on busy trade routes linking Sudan and Cameroon and was at the centre of clashes between different rebel groups and the army between 2007 and 2010.
Government troops are thin on the ground in this part of the impoverished, coup-prone country.
The clashes last week led hundreds of local people to flee Ndele. More than 300 people were still taking refuge at the offices of the aid agency Micopax, the Mission for the Consolidation of Peace in Central African Republic, according to a UN source who asked to remain anonymous.
The same source said the rebels had pillaged the premises of the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the town, seizing bullet-proof vests among other items.