The fighters abandoned their positions in Bangassou, a town they captured on January 3, after the peacekeepers’ ultimatum.
United Nations peacekeepers say they have regained control of a city in the Central African Republic captured two weeks ago by armed groups leading an offensive against the government of President Faustin-Archange Touadera.
The rebels abandoned their positions in Bangassou, 750 km east of the capital, Bangui, and fled the city following an ultimatum on Friday from UN peacekeeping force MINUSCA, a declared Saturday evening the spokesman of the mission Vladimir Monteiro.
“The town of Bangassou is under the full control of MINUSCA,” Monteiro said, adding that the UN force “remains on alert” to prevent any return of the rebels or other actions against civilians, the authority state and UN troops.
Armed groups leading a national offensive captured the city on January 3, forcing many residents to flee across the border into the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“It is a great joy,” Juan José Aguirre, the bishop of Bangassou, told AFP news agency following the UN operation to regain control of the city.
“After 13 days of sleeping outside, people will be able to go home,” he added.
Malcolm Webb of Al Jazeera, reporting from Bangui, said: “Rwandan peacekeepers were deployed to Bangassou ahead of a possible operation and an ultimatum was given to the armed groups controlling the city, after which they left. .
“There have been reports of gunfire in the area and also reports that armed groups still control parts of the city,” he said.
“With or without small towns, they still control about two-thirds of the country’s territory, and in this country, most of its diamond and gold mines.”
Lt. Col. Abdoul Aziz Fall, spokesman for the military component of MINUSCA, said the UN force intervened to end the looting attempts overnight from Friday to Saturday.
“The situation is calm and under control and the positions that were once occupied by armed groups are no longer,” Fall said.
Six of the most powerful armed groups united a month ago to launch an offensive.
The coalition announced its offensive ahead of the presidential and legislative vote on December 27, aimed at preventing Touadera from being re-elected.
On January 4, Touadera was declared the winner, although the political opposition has cried foul.
The results represent only about half of registered voters, as hundreds of thousands of people were unable to vote in rebel-held areas.
Rebel forces launched their closest attack in Bangui on Wednesday before being repulsed with the loss of a peacekeeper, the UN said.
The UN refugee agency said on Friday that the number of people fleeing violence after the presidential election had doubled in a week to 60,000.
More than 50,000 of them had fled across the Ubangui River to DR Congo – with 10,000 people arriving in the country just on Wednesday as armed groups attacked near Bangui.
Landlocked CAR is one of the poorest nations in the world and has seen a series of coups and wars since its independence from France in 1960.
In 2013, it degenerated into bloodshed again when then-president François Bozize, who himself seized power in a coup a decade earlier, was deposed by a coalition mainly Muslim called Seleka.
MINUSCA has nearly 12,000 soldiers. The peacekeeping mission, first deployed in 2014, has been extended until November 2021.