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Rebels withdraw from Central African town

BANGUI, Oct 17 – Two rebel groups that have signed a ceasefire in the Central African Republic said Monday they had left the central town of Bria, and one of them asked for humanitarian aid for civilians.

The October 8 ceasefire ended fighting that claimed about 50 lives between the rebel Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP) and the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR), which has signed a peace pact with the Bangui government.

The conflict was mainly for control of local diamond resources, worked by artisanal miners.

Mahamat Zakaria, the spokesman of CPJP leader Abdoulaye Hissene, said that his movement had withdrawn his forces by 65 kilometres (40 miles) from Bria and encamped them.

“The CPJP is respecting the main points of the accord which it signed with the UFDR, which provided for a withdrawal in eight days,” he said.

“The CPJP asks humanitarian non-governmental organisations to come to the aid of the people of Bria, and above all displaced people in Bambari, Ippy, Ouadda, Yalinga, by bringing them clothes, shoes, food and medical care,” Zakaria added.

“Now that an accord has been signed, the UFDR, which is waiting only for disarmament, has pulled its men out of Bria to lead them to camps at Birao (in the north), where they can be disarmed,” Gontran Djolo Ahaba, a UFDR spokesman, told AFP.

A source in the regional administration, who asked not to be named, said that the fighting in the Bria region had driven some 4,500 people from their homes, and added that they had urgent humanitarian needs.

According to a military source in Bria, “the fighters of the two rival armed groups began to withdraw from the town exactly two or three days after the signing of the ceasefire accord.”

The Central African Republic, one of the poorest countries in Africa, has seen decades of strife among armed movements, but current President Francois Bozize, in power since a 2003 coup, has signed peace deals with most of the rebel forces.

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