- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 16, 2003

BANGUI, Central African Republic, March 16 (UPI) — Rebels entered the capital of the Central African Republic, looted the president's residence while he was out of the country and triggered major confusion as loyalist troops fought the apparent coup attempt, the BBC reported Sunday.

Monitoring radio reports from the area, the BBC said weapons firing could be heard for hours. President Ange-Feliz Patasse was in Niger attending the fifth Community of Sahel-Saharan States summit.

Witnesses in the capital said gunshots and heavy artillery could be heard firing, especially around the airport where Patasse would have to land if he returned. In fact, an airplane that may have carried Patasse attempted unsuccessfully to land.

The state broadcasting facilities fell silent while many people attempted to get out of town. Then the state radio began playing martial music and calm appeared to return.

Since an attempted coup was beaten back in October, it was not yet assumed that the takeover has taken place although some reports said a coup leader was to appear in a broadcast shortly.

In October the rebels, who lost and then regained control of towns north of the capital, got as far as the president's residence before being fought off.

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