French troops secure CAR capital airport

201332314535582734_20France has sent soldiers to Central African Republic to secure the airport of the capital Bangui, a diplomatic source said, after rebel forces entered the north of the city.

“A company of troops has been sent to secure the airport. The airport is now secure,” said the source on Saturday. “We have asked our citizens to remain at home. For the time being, there is nothing to be worried about. There is no direct threat to our citizens at the moment.”

A second diplomatic source said that Paris had requested an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss a solution to the crisis in the landlocked former French colony at the heart of Africa.

Nelson Ndjadder, a spokesman for the Seleka rebel coalition, said earlier on Saturday that his fighters entered the capital and were heading to the presidential palace in the centre of town.

He also said they had shot down a government military helicopter which had been attacking their forces since Friday.

The Seleka rebels resumed hostilities this week in the mineral-rich former French colony, vowing to topple
President Francois Bozize whom it accuses of breaking a January peace agreement to integrate its fighters into the army.

Speaking to Al Jazeera from Bangui, Central African Republic’s Deputy Prime Minister Parfait Mbaye, said the rebel advance “should be condemned by the African union”.

“The coup d’etat attempt by Seleka rebels is still ongoing. Fighting is now taking place on the outskirts of Bangui. We can only condemn this attempt to take power by force… We are very sorry to see what is happening in our country.”

The rebels are said to have driven back government forces and taken control of the neighbourhood around Bozize’s private residence. Officials said Bozize was in the presidential palace in the town centre.

Speaking to Al Jazeera from Bangui, Sylvain Groulx of Doctors without Borders, said the fighting has not yet reached to centre of the capital.

“We are about two-to-three kilometres from the centre of Bangui and we cannot hear any shooting but we have heard the same information that a group of rebels has entered the capital,” Groulx said.

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