C. African rebels capture two more towns

Updated 06 January 2013
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C. African rebels capture two more towns

BANGUI, Central African Republic: Rebels in the Central African Republic captured two more towns overnight, Territorial Administration Minister Josue Binoua told AFP yesterday.
“The rebels took two towns near Bambari,” a town already under the control of the Seleka rebel coalition, Binoua said. “This shows their intent to wage war even during negotiations.”
Earlier, rebels said they had not been informed about plans for peace talks that have the support of the United States and the UN Security Council.
Regional grouping the Economic Community of Central African States (CEEAC) is hoping to host the talks involving rebels and President Francois Bozize’s government in Gabon from Tuesday.
The United States on Friday urged all sides in the conflict to seize the opportunity to reach a comprehensive peace deal.
And the UN Security Council renewed its demand that the rebels halt their advance on the capital and take part in the talks in “good faith.”
But Eric Massi, a spokesman for the rebels, said from Paris that they had not been informed about the CEEAC initiative.
“I’m not aware of that. This is the first I’ve heard of it. It’s incredible,” Massi told AFP.
His comments contradicted claims by CEEAC officials that the rebels had agreed to the talks in Libreville.
A CEEAC source earlier told AFP a delegation from the Seleka coalition of three rebel groups — supposedly including Massi — would arrive in Libreville today ahead of the planned meeting with representatives of the Central African Republic (CAR) government.
The rebels have repeatedly questioned Bozize’s sincerity in offering to form a government of national unity and called for him to leave power.
The president’s office said Friday that such a demand was impossible.
“It’s out of the question to negotiate on the departure of President Francois Bozize,” adviser Stanislas Mbamgot told AFP.
Seleka launched its offensive on Dec. 10 from the north and marched across much of the country before halting its push within striking distance of the capital, in the south.
The UN Security Council on Friday renewed its demand that the rebels stop advancing on the capital and take part in peace talks in “good faith.”
“The Security Council reiterated their demand that the Seleka coalition of armed groups cease all hostilities, withdraw from seized cities, and cease attempts to advance further,” said a statement released by the 15-nation body.
The council made a similar demand on Dec. 27 but Seleka forces have since moved closer to Bangui.
The latest statement expressed “concern” about rebel movements over the past week and reiterated the council’s “urgent call for an end to Seleka’s military offensive, and stressed that the current situation in CAR cannot be resolved militarily.”
The council gave strong backing to the proposed talks in Libreville.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the US was encouraging both the rebels and the government “to use this as an opportunity to really try to negotiate a comprehensive, inclusive, political resolution.”


Rohingya refugees rescued after drifting at sea for 9 days

Updated 21 April 2018
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Rohingya refugees rescued after drifting at sea for 9 days

BIREUEN, Indonesia: A Rohingya Muslim man among the group of 76 rescued in Indonesian waters in a wooden boat says they were at sea for nine days after leaving Myanmar, where the minority group faces intense persecution, and were hoping to reach Malaysia.
The eight children, 25 women and 43 men were brought ashore on Friday afternoon at Bireuen in Aceh province on the island of Sumatra, the third known attempt by members of the ethnic minority to escape Myanmar by sea this month. Several required medical attention for dehydration and exhaustion, local authorities said.
Fariq Muhammad said he paid the equivalent of about $150 for a place on the boat that left from Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where a violent military crackdown on the minority group has sparked an exodus of some 700,000 refugees over land into neighboring Bangladesh since August.
The refugee vessel was intercepted by a Thai navy frigate and later escorted by a Thai patrol vessel until sighting land, said Fariq. The group believed the Thais understood they wanted to reach Malaysia and were dismayed when they realized they were in Indonesia, said Fariq, who gave the identification numbers of the Thai vessels.
“We were forced to leave because we could not stay, could not work so our lives became difficult in Myanmar. Our identity card was not given so we were forced to go,” he told The Associated Press on Saturday.
Local officials and a charitable group are providing shelter and food for the refugees. The International Organization for Migration said it has sent a team from its Medan office in Sumatra, including Rohingya interpreters, to help local officials with humanitarian assistance.
Rohingya, treated as undesirables in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar and denied citizenship, used to flee by sea by the thousands each year until security in Myanmar was tightened after a surge of refugees in 2015 caused regional alarm.
In April, there has been an apparent increase in Rohingya attempts to leave the country by sea. An Indonesian fishing boat rescued a group of five Rohingya in weak condition off westernmost Aceh province on April 6, after a 20-day voyage in which five other people died.
Just days before, Malaysian authorities intercepted a vessel carrying 56 people believed to be Rohingya refugees and brought the vessel and its passengers to shore.
Mohammad Saleem, part of the group that landed Friday in Aceh, said they left from Sittwe in Rakhine state, the location of displacement camps for Rohingya set up following attacks in 2012 by Buddhist mobs.
“We’re not allowed to do anything. We don’t have a livelihood,” the 25-year-old said. “We can only live in the camps with not enough food to eat there. We have no rights there.”