- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 26, 2008

MUTSAMUDU, Comoros (AFP) a— A coalition of Comoran and African Union troops invaded the rebel island of Anjouan yesterday, hunting for its renegade leader and exchanging gunfire with his supporters along the way.

Within hours of the pre-dawn operation, the 1,400 federal, Tanzanian and Sudanese soldiers had made swift progress. Military officials said they had located Mohamed Bacar, but it was not known whether they had captured him.

The coalition staged its long-awaited landing in Anjouan’s capital and main port of Mutsamudu, where they were greeted by cheering residents.

Mr. Bacar’s re-election last year as president of Anjouan — one of three islands forming the Indian Ocean federation — has never been recognized internationally, and Mr. Bacar has been warned of an invasion ever since.

Coalition forces “are deploying on the island … but you cannot secure control of the whole island in three hours,” Defense Minister Mohamed Bacar Dossar told Agence France-Presse in Moroni, the federal capital of Comoros.

An Agence France-Presse reporter in Anjouan saw Bacar loyalists near Mr. Bacar’s residence in Barakani early yesterday. They had red ribbons, the color of the Anjouan flag, knotted around the barrels of their assault rifles.

The AU invasion force eventually flushed the rebels out of their positions and took control of the area.

“I can confirm that everything is over in Barakani. Our forces entered the residence, the soldiers searched the premises, but Bacar wasn’t there,” senior government official Antoy Abdou told Agence France-Presse.

Bacar loyalists are thought to number barely 400 on the whole island. Small groups, armed with rifles and rocket launchers, offered some resistance around a key security compound and a fuel depot in Amirosy, near Mutsamudu.

An Agence France-Presse correspondent saw one wounded woman being transported into Mutsamudu for treatment. One man was injured when coalition forces fired on a house thought to shelter Bacar allies.

A spokesman for the Comoran army, Ahmed Sidi, told Agence France-Presse that Mr. Bacar had been located, but he did not elaborate.

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