Potential Hot Spots: December 24, 2002

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: A strange tale out of the Central African Republic - Italian Catholic news agency MISNA sources reported that at least 500 Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) rebels penetrated into CAR territory on 8 December and were "perpetrating unspeakable violations against the local population". A Catholic chapel at Agbossi (along the Sudan border) was destroyed, while in Bambouti (around 780 miles east of Bangui) homes were raided and civilians taken hostage, then forced to transport the loot (like mundane foodstuffs and plastic roof covers) across the border. 

On 10 December, two SPLA rebels were captured and taken to the town of Obo (around 60 miles west of Bambouti). Two days later, a group of about 150 SPLA rebels demanded the immediate release of their companions, threatening retaliation against the local residents and Catholic mission. On 13 December, the two were released, but on the 19th 15 SPLA rebels attacked Obo again. Striking at 17:00 local time, concentrating their fire against the gendarmerie building for over three hours and killing one policeman. The Catholic mission was not attacked, but numerous homes were damaged. 

Since the SPLA has their own ties with the Catholic church, these attacks may simply be perpetrated by Sudanese border raiders (who have no real allegiances). Defections and treachery are also common outside of the core SPLA. The Sudanese government persuaded commander Peter Gadet to defect from the SPLA and become a government ally on 12 December. Gadet, a member of the Nuer, the second biggest tribe after the Dinka, commanded SPLA forces in Unity and led more than 20 military operations targeting oil-producing and oil-exporting facilities and the government considered him "an able military commander and fierce fighter". 

However, MISNA insists that these rebels tied to the former chief of staff Franois Boziz and that the east border events are symptomatic of the anarchy reigning in the nation, since the rebels took over vast northern sectors of the Central African Republic. However, government troops retook the town of Bozoum (about 250 miles northwest of the Central African Republic capital, Bangui) from rebel forces on 20 December. They then retreated to their headquarters at Bossangoa (180 miles north of Bangui). Bozoum is the third town (after Damara and Bossembele) that government troops have retaken from Bozize's rebels. - Adam Geibel


 

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