- The army has recaptured Ouadda-Djallé, a town in the northeast of the Central African Republic, the last of several held by rebels since November, a spokesman for President François Bozizé said on Monday.
"The town of Ouadda-Djallé was recaptured on Sunday without any fighting," Cyriaque Gonda, the spokesman, told the UN media 'IRIN'.
The recapture of Ouadda-Djallé, in the northern prefecture of Vakaga, ends the occupation of areas in the northeast by a rebel coalition known as Union des Forces Démocratiques pour le rassemblement (UFDR), which began operations on 30 October by capturing the town of Birao, the provincial capital of Vakaga. Ouadda-Djallé is 110 kilometres south of Birao.
Efforts to contact 'Capt' Diego Albator Yao, the rebel in charge of UFDR's military operation, have failed since the army recaptured Ouadda-Djallé.
The rebels have said they resorted to arms to protest against the "exclusionist policy" of President Bozizé's government, claiming that since seizing power from President Ange-Félix Patassé in March 2003, Mr Bozizé had ruled on an ethnic basis.
Besides Ouadda-Djallé and Birao, the army, with the key help of French troops, has also recaptured the towns of Ouadda, Sam-Ouandja and Ndélé. France provided the army of the Central African Republic with military assistance after a request by President Bozizé to the country's former colonial power to help it quell the rebellion in the north and northeast.
Six jet fighters and four helicopters were used to chase rebels from the towns they controlled. Moreover, troops of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC) backed the army in clearing the rebels out of towns such as Ouadda and Sam-Ouandja. Military sources in the capital, Bangui, said 300 French soldiers and 380 CEMAC troops took part in the operation.
On Monday, government spokesman Gonda said: "The loyal forces have victoriously re-conquered all the towns controlled by rebels, who are currently on the run."
However, many Bangui residents were reluctant to believe that the army had recaptured all the towns held by the rebels.
François Bassole, a driver, expressed concern for the country's future. "The government has announced the army is in control of the whole country but the rebels are still in the bush; who knows, they can come back again," he said.
An army major, who requested anonymity, held a similar view. He said problems remained, despite the towns' recapture. "It is a good thing to re-conquer all these towns but the most difficult task looms ahead - clearing the region of these armed men," he said.
Since late October when rebel activity intensified in the north, the government has been accusing Sudan of backing UFDR. In November, the Central African authorities claimed the rebels who had captured the towns were from Sudan's Darfur region, something that was denied by Sudanese authorities. The rebels, for their part, have also said they have no connection with Sudan.
The rebel activity in the north has caused the displacement of thousands of civilians, who fled their homes in fear of violence. Some of the displaced are said to have crossed the border into Sudan in search of security while others are hiding in the bush. There have been reports of rape in the affected areas.
The government of the Central African Republic and the UFDR have accused each other of perpetrating human-rights abuses in the region.
So far, no humanitarian organisation has a precise assessment of the plight of civilians in the area, as no relief organisation has been able to enter the region since the rebels captured Birao.
The public information officer of the UN's resident humanitarian affairs coordinator, Maurizio Giuliano, told 'IRIN' on Monday that some relief organisations had flown to Birao on Sunday. However, he did not have any more details.
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