Claiming he was prolonging negotiations in order to launch a coup, forces loyal to the government of the Central African Republic (CAR) stormed the barracks where former army chief Gen. Francois Bozize and his supporters had been based, forcing them to flee northward from the capital, Bangui.
"Reports from reliable sources speak of the preparation of a coup d'etat with external support and complicity," Prosper Ndouba, the presidential spokesman, told Radio France Internationale on Wednesday.
He said that the military camp in the north of the city to which Bozize and his forces had withdrawn had been recaptured by forces loyal to President Ange-Felix Patasse. Ndouba called on Bozize "to present himself to the legal authorities", adding that "the president of the republic is committed to ensuring his security".
Government forces have been backed by some 180 Libyan soldiers, 100 of whom had remained in Bangui following their intervention to protect Patasse in the wake of a failed coup in May. Tripoli sent another 80 reinforcements on Monday.
Before the government offensive, efforts to mediate a peaceful resolution had been led by the UN Representative of the Secretary-General to the CAR, Lamine Cisse. Diplomats from neighbouring central African countries and the Organisation of African Unity had also been sent to help resolve the crisis.
Hostilities erupted Saturday when government forces tried to arrest Bozize on behalf of a judicial commission probing this year's coup attempt of 28 May. Bozize refused, claiming he had not been given sufficient safety guarantees. He was dismissed as army chief of staff on 26 Oct. after being accused of Involvement in a coup plot and after weapons were found in three homes in the capital. However, he has denied involvement, saying he backed CAR President Ange-Felix Patasse during army mutinies in 1996 and 1997. Soldiers allied to Bozize came to his defence, and five days of intermittent fighting in the northern region of the capital ensued.
Officials have not released details on casualties.
Patasse has survived army mutinies in 1996-97 as well as the May coup bid, blamed on his predecessor, Andre Kolingba, a general who lost the presidential election in 1993. Kolingba's whereabouts remain unknown after his troops were overpowered and forced to flee Bangui in June.