Rebels release presidential spokesman unharmed

Rebels in the Central African Republic have released Prosper Ndouba, the presidential spokesman they captured just over a month ago, the local representative of the International Committee of Red Cross told IRIN on Tuesday.

"He was released yesterday at 10:00 a.m. and we accompanied him home, where he is with his family," Peter Fluege, the ICRC official, said.

"I confirm that he came back yesterday evening accompanied by the ICRC," Christophe Ndouba, Prosper's younger brother, told IRIN on Tuesday in the capital, Bangui.

The rebels, loyal to the country's former armed forces chief of staff, Gen Francois, Bozize, released Ndouba to Fluege. A rebel spokesman, Parfait Mbaye, told Radio France Internationale on Monday that Ndouba's release was obtained after incessant pleas by the ICRC, national human rights body Ligue centrafricaine des droits de l'homme, and village leaders at Paoua, 506 km north of Bangui, which is still under rebel control.

But analysts said the rebels' decision to release Ndouba was connected to a complaint filed in a French court last week by Ndouba's wife against Bozize, whom she accused of kidnapping her husband. As Ndouba is a French citizen and Bozize had been granted asylum in France, analysts said that the French judicial authorities would most likely have pursued the case.

For his part, CAR President Ange-Felix Patasse, had ruled out any negotiations with rebels for Ndouba's release. Ndouba, Patasse's spokesman, was taken hostage on 25 October as the rebels raided Bangui and occupied its northern suburbs for six days.

Speaking to his own internet-based journal, Centrafrique-Presse, Ndouba said on Monday that he remained concerned about the fate of Lt Isidore Laoule, whom he had never seen during his 38 days of captivity. Laoule, the aide de camp of National Assembly President Apollinaire Dondon, was also abducted on 25 October as Bozize's forces entered Bangui. Since then, no news has been received about him.