Attack on presidential palace thwarted in Bangui

Last Updated: Friday, December 27, 2013 - 11:52

Bangui: The spokesman for the embattled president of the Central African Republic confirmed that assailants had attempted to attack the presidential palace, but were pushed back.

Reached late yesterday by telephone, Guy Simplice said there had been heavy fighting near the seat of government, but the presidential guard had been able to block the aggressors.

For weeks, there have been rumours that a Christian militia known as anti-Balaka would attempt a coup d`etat.

The heavy arms fire could be heard in the centre of town, including near the five-star Hotel Ledger, where international journalists are staying. A rocket came over the hotel`s wall, landing on the hotel grounds.
President Michel Djotodia, a Muslim, came to power in a March coup that ousted the nation`s Christian leader.

Elodiane Baalbe hid underneath her bed as gunfire echoed around her on Christmas Day in the capital of Central African Republic. When it finally died down yesterday, she made a dash for safety, hiding behind houses as she fled her neighbourhood.

On her way out she passed the calcified car of a unit of Chadian peacekeepers, the charred body of one soldier still upright in the vehicle inside. The sight was so horrifying that she looked away immediately.

"I had my 3-year-old on my back. I looked for a second, and then I kept running," she said.

A total of six Chadian soldiers from the African Union peacekeeping force were killed on Christmas Day in the Gobongo neighbourhood of the capital.
Their destroyed car, with at least one body still inside, had not been removed a day later, underscoring how dangerous this chaotic country has become, even for the international forces tasked with pacifying it, said African Union spokesman Eloi Yao.

As the African Union was struggling to secure the crime scene, they discovered another: Close to the presidential palace, peacekeepers discovered a mass grave.

"We found around 20 bodies in a state of decomposition in an area that we call Panthers` Hill. The 20 were scattered in different graves in a small area. You found five bodies in one hole, three in another, two in yet another and so on. The bodies were wearing civilian dress, but we cannot know if they really were civilians or if they were militiamen," said Yao.=

The Central African Republic has tilted into anarchy, as the country`s Christian majority seeks revenge against the Muslim rebels who seized power in a coup nine months ago.

Both Christian and Muslim civilians are now armed, and the international troops brought in to try to rein in the violence have been sucked into the conflict, accused of having taken sides.

AP

First Published: Friday, December 27, 2013 - 10:16

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