Security forces in CAR repel two attacks by armed groups seeking to seize the capital Bangui on Wednesday, the prime minister said.
Rebel forces in the Central African Republic launched two attacks on the outskirts of the capital Bangui on Wednesday that were repulsed, officials said.
A witness in Bangui heard explosions and later saw helicopters fly over the city, Reuters news agency reported.
“The attackers who came in large numbers to take Bangui have been vigorously repelled,” Prime Minister Firmin Ngrebada said in a Facebook post, urging citizens to remain calm.
The fighting was still ongoing, said UN MINUSCA mission spokesperson Abdoulaziz Fall, who spoke only of an attack.
The simultaneous dawn assaults on army units were the first near the capital since President Faustin Archange Touadera was re-elected in a December ballot..
The assault represents a marked escalation in fighting with rebel groups that erupted around the disputed December 27 elections. The groups attacked towns near Bangui last month, but failed to reach the capital as expected.
A coalition of armed rebel groups – accused of an attempted coup after their offensive to disrupt the vote – has vowed to march on Bangui.
Wednesday’s dawn attacks, 9 km and 12 km from the capital, targeted two army brigades but rebel forces were pushed back, Interior Minister Henri Wanzet Linguissara told the agency AFP press release.
These attacks are the latest since the alliance of RCA’s six most powerful rebel groups, which control two-thirds of the country, launched an offensive to prevent Touadera from being re-elected.
He won the vote and was declared the winner on January 4.
The rebels have since carried out sporadic attacks, mainly in towns far from the capital, which have been repelled by UN peacekeepers and Central African troops, as well as Rwandan soldiers and Russian paramilitaries sent to help.
Central African prosecutors have opened an investigation into former President François Bozize, whom the government accuses of planning a coup with the help of armed groups.
Bozize, who denies the claims, came to power in a coup in 2003 before being overthrown in 2013, after which the country descended into sectarian conflict.
The violence has forced more than 30,000 people to flee to neighboring countries, according to the UN refugee agency.
The CAR has experienced five coups d’état and numerous rebellions since its independence from France in 1960. Despite peace agreements, arms embargoes and sanctions against militia leaders, peace has remained elusive in this country. rich in gold and diamonds of 4.7 million inhabitants.