C. African Republic president overthrown by rebels

By Krista Larson

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, March 24 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

They demanded Bozize send home South African forces who were helping bolster the country's military. They also sought to integrate some 2,000 rebel fighters into Central African Republic's armed forces.

Earlier this month, the rebels again took control of two towns and threatening to advance on the capital.

Late Saturday, Bangui was plunged into darkness after fighters cut power to much of the city. State radio went dead, and fearful residents cowered in their homes.

An unspecified number of French citizens have taken refuge in the French Embassy, a French diplomat said on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to be publicly named according to Foreign Ministry policy. The diplomat said extra French troops were brought in to secure the Bangui airport.

Hundreds of French soldiers already were in the country, some of whom were sent in to protect French interests in the former colony. Bozize had appealed to Hollande for help, but the French president said he would not be protecting the government. Other French soldiers have been providing technical support and helping to train the local army, according to the French defense ministry.

South African Brig. Gen. Xolani Mabanga, the country's military spokesman, said there had been "intense" fighting this weekend between rebels and South African forces. "Our base was attacked by the rebels as they were advancing toward the capital," he said.

"We have suffered some casualties," he said. He declined to provide the number of casualties, pending the outcome of an investigation.

The peace deal also had created a prime minister post, which was given to opposition leader Nicolas Tiangaye, who had been sheltering at a military base for forces from regional neighbors known as FOMAC.

The United States urged the rebels to "provide full support" to Tiangaye, citing the "continued legitimacy" of the peace deal signed in January.

Krista Larson reported from Dakar, Senegal. Associated Press writers Christopher Torchia in Johannesburg and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.

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