UN peacekeeping troops say they have retaken control of a city in the Central African Republic captured two weeks ago by armed groups waging an offensive against President Faustin Archange Touadera’s regime.
Rebels abandonded their positions in Bangassou, 750 kilometres east of the capital Bangui, and fled the city following an ultimatum on Friday from the UN peacekeeping force MINUSCA, the force’s spokesman Vladimir Monteiro said late Saturday.
“The city of Bangassou is under the complete control of MINUSCA,” Monteiro added.
Armed groups waging a nationwide offensive captured the city on January 3, forcing many residents to flee to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“It’s a great joy,” Juan Jose Aguirre, the bishop of Bangassou, told media following the UN operation to regain control of the city.
“After thirteen days sleeping outdoors, people will be able to return to their homes,” he added.
Lieutenant Colonel Abdoulaziz Fall, spokesman for MINUSCA’s military component, said the UN force intervened to stop attempts at looting overnight Friday to Saturday.
“The situation is calm and under control and positions that had been occupied by armed groups are no longer,” Fall said.
Six of the most powerful armed groups, who have occupied roughly two-thirds of the country for eight years, united a month ago to wage an offensive.
The coalition announced their offensive ahead of the December 27 presidential and legislative vote, aimed at preventing Touadera’s re-election.
Landlocked CAR is one of the world’s poorest nations and has seen a string of coups and wars since it gained independence from France in 1960.