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French warplanes fired on rebels in Central Africa

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Nov 29, 2006 (PARIS) — French warplanes have been involved in fighting in the Central African Republic, firing on rebels in the northeast of the country, military officials said in Paris Wednesday.

Mirage F1s turned their guns on guerrillas near the airport in the town of Birao on Monday after coming under fire from the ground, said a spokesman for the general chiefs of staff, Captain Christophe Prazuck.

The French military had initially said that its forces in the Central African Republic had shot at rebels near Birao in "self-defence" on Monday, but had not made mention that its aircraft were used.

Prazuck said the Mirages were providing air cover to a French military transport plane that landed at the airport with Central African troops on board.

A military chief for the rebel Union of Democratic Forces for the Rally (UFDR), Captain Yao Bejo, told AFP that his men had been attacked again Tuesday by government troops and French warplanes.
He said the rebels lost five men in bombing runs and "several" civilians had also been killed.

Prazuck denied French aircraft had been involved in any action apart from that on Monday, during which he said seven rebels were killed and two of their vehicles were destroyed.

Central African President Francois Bozize earlier this month called for military help from France to counter the rebels, who he claims have backing from Sudan.

General Bozize had formerly been military chief of staff under the highly unpopular president Ange-Felix Patasse, whom he ousted in the coup. He became the country’s democratically elected head of state in 2005.

The French contingent permanently in Bangui under the name Operation Boali is tasked with training government soldiers and lending support to troops sent in 2002 by the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa, of which the Central African Republic is a member.

(AFP)

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