Ex-rebels launch reprisals in Central African Republic capital

BANGUI Tue Apr 16, 2013 8:18pm BST

Soldiers from the Seleka rebel alliance stand guard as the Central African Republic's new President Michel Djotodia (not pictured) attends Friday prayers at the central mosque in Bangui March 29, 2013. REUTERS/Alain Amontchi

Soldiers from the Seleka rebel alliance stand guard as the Central African Republic's new President Michel Djotodia (not pictured) attends Friday prayers at the central mosque in Bangui March 29, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Alain Amontchi

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BANGUI (Reuters) - Members of a rebel movement that seized power in Central African Republic last month launched a reprisal raid on a stronghold of the ousted former president on Tuesday as the United Nations voiced concern at the deteriorating security situation there.

Fighters from the Seleka rebel coalition, which overthrew President Francois Bozize on March 24, opened fire in the same area of the capital Bangui where at least 13 people were killed and dozens more were injured in clashes on Sunday.

Seleka gunmen told Reuters they reacted after one of their members was killed by residents in the Boy-Rabe neighbourhood, a bastion of Bozize loyalists.

"One of our men was riding a motorcycle through the neighbourhood this morning when youths stoned him to death. You think we can let that go?" an angry fighter told Reuters as heavy gunfire rang out nearby.

"Since these guys want to prove they're as stubborn as their boss, Bozize, we're going to show them what we're made of," he said.

The shooting continued for around two hours, but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

"It's true, our men were angry and entered this neighbourhood to avenge their murdered brother...but we quickly calmed the situation down," said Colonel Mahamat Saleh, a senior Seleka officer.

He said Seleka fighters had only fired their weapons into the air to disperse crowds of young men.

The movement's leader, Michel Djotodia, drew international condemnation and sanctions after declaring himself president last month.

After pledging to respect a peace deal signed earlier this year, he was chosen by a transitional council on Saturday to lead the mineral-rich but impoverished former French colony to elections within 18 months.

A United Nation's spokesperson said on Tuesday that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned "Seleka's acts of violence against the civilian population."

Navi Pillay, the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights, said cases of targeted killings, arbitrary arrests, torture, recruitment of children, rapes, disappearances and kidnappings had been reported following the rebel takeover.

"I call all on parties involved in the crisis ... to put an end to the prevailing insecurity and violence plaguing the country," he said.

Central African Republic's Red Cross say at least 119 people have been killed since Bozize's overthrow. Around 37,000 people have fled the country, and tens of thousands more have been displaced by the violence, according to the U.N.

Seleka launched its insurgency in early December, accusing Bozize of reneging on a 2007 peace deal.

(Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols in New York and Stephanie Ulmer-Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by Joe Bavier)

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