BANGUI, Central African Republic — Rebels in Central African Republic are advancing on the capital, Bangui, after taking the town of Damara on Friday, said a rebel spokesman.
By seizing Damara the rebels crossed the boundary line drawn by regional forces in January, when the same rebel group threatened to take the capital if their demands were not met.
The rebels, known as Seleka, attacked the town of Bossangoa early Friday, before taking Damara later in the day, said Eric Massi, a Paris-based spokesman for the rebels. He claimed that his fighters had already covertly infiltrated the capital, Bangui, and are waiting for their fellow fighters to join them.
Panic spread throughout the capital, with the neighborhoods closest to the northern gate of the city emptying out, as frightened residents locked up their shops, packed their bags and yanked their children out of school. Banks and government offices closed early.
"Bossangoa fell without a fight. And as you know, Bossangoa is the fief of President Francois Bozize. We took Bossangoa in the morning and by early afternoon, our elements were in Damara," said Massi by telephone.
"They are now marching on the capital," said Massi. "We are calling on the population and on the military to put down their arms. And we are calling on our soldiers to prove that they are disciplined, to refrain from pillaging, so that we can avoid unnecessary combat."