Confusion after reported coup attempt in CAR

Dakar- Senegal (PANA) -- The situation remained unclear for much of Monday in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic (CAR), after an overnight reported coup attempt against the government of President Ange-Felix Patasse.
A government announcement quoted by various media reports said the regular army was in control after "a failed coup," with the national radio off the air following a damage to its transmitter by rebel soldiers.
The city centre was, however, said to be calm and under the control of government troops.
The identity of the coup makers was not immediately known and the reported death of some of the attackers could not be confirmed.
Sporadic heavy exchange of gunfire was reported early Monday around the Presidential Palace and near Bangui Airport, before the army sealed off the city centre, and rolled out tanks to protect the Palace and other public buildings.
Panick-stricken residents stayed off the streets, which were also deserted by buses and taxis, while schools and shops remained closed.
Patasse has had a chequered rule since 1993 in the former French colony of some 3.
5 million people.
Government workers have staged several strikes over unpaid salaries, while street demonstrators in December 2000 demanded Patasse's resignation.
Landlocked CAR, which ranks as one of the World's poorest countries despite being rich in diamonds, became notorious for mutinies by unpaid soldiers in the 1990s.
Last year, the UN ended a peacekeeping mission it sent in 1999 to replace the French-backed African force which restored order after the mutinies.
To compound its problems, CAR harbours more than 8,000 refugees from the civil war in neighbouring DR Congo.

28 may 2001 23:30:00

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