Bangui mutineers die in French revenge attack

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The Independent Online
Bangui - French troops killed 10 Central African Republic army mutineers yesterday in a helicopter and tank attack launched after two French officers with a multinational mediation team were killed.

A defence ministry spokes-man in Paris said the overnight operation targeted mutineers' command posts in Kassai army camp and other rebel- held areas of the capital, Bangui. A further 30 mutineers were taken prisoner.

Spokesmen for the mutineers put the death toll at 21 and said seven civilians had also been killed around their headquarters in Petevo district.

"France is determined to take on the rebels," a French military spokesman, Colonel Henri Pelicier, told reporters in Bangui, adding that French troops had taken control of the port, its fuel supplies and a short-wave radio transmitter.

The Central African Republic is in the grip of its third army revolt within a year. French troops, in the former colony under a defence pact, intervened to keep President Ange-Felix Patasse in power during the second revolt in May.

Hundreds of people have been killed in violence associated with the revolts which have turned into a campaign to oust Mr Patasse, a civilian elected in 1993 during the impoverished nation's democratic transition.

French officials said yesterday's operation was one of self-defence following the killing on Saturday of the two soldiers.