The United Nations has called an emergency consultation on a rebel advance towards the Central African Republican capital, Bangui. The rebel Seleka group has taken the town of Damara, breaking peace accord terms.
The 15-nation UN Security Council met on Friday evening to discuss the escalation of hostilities by the Seleka rebels that has seen them close in on Bangui.
Violence resumed on Friday after a peace accord that the rebels had with the government collapsed. Seleka attacked and seized the town of Bossangoa early on Friday, before taking Damara - where the ceasefire boundary line had been drawn - later in the day.
The AP news agency reported that the rebels had captured Bossangoa without a fight and that they were hoping this would be the case for Bangui.
"They are now marching on the capital," Eric Massi, a Paris-based spokesman for the rebels, told the agency.
"We are calling on the population and on the military to put down their arms," he said. "And we are calling on our soldiers to prove that they are disciplined, to refrain from pillaging, so that we can avoid unnecessary combat.”
Another rebel chief told the AFP news agency that the rebels were “at the gates of Bangui,” with South African peacekeeping troops now the only remaining barrier.
Meanwhile, the Reuters news agency claimed the rebel advance had been halted by the deployment of an attack helicopter alongside ground troops.
The Seleka rebels have faced little resistance from the army, which is ill-trained and ill-equipped. The rebels accuse President Francois Bozize of reneging on earlier peace deals.
rc/hc (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)