Central Africa Authorities Deny Killing Rebel Chief

BANGUI(AFP) — Authorities in the Central African Republic on Thursday denied allegations they had arrested, tortured and killed the leader of the country’s only rebel group still fighting.

Charles Massi, 57, a former minister who heads the rebel Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP), was killed on January 8, his wife and party have alleged.

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But Defence Minister Jean-Francis Bozize dismissed the reports as “lies.”

“The defence ministry wishes to issue a formal denial,” he said in a statement, insisting the government has “no knowledge” of his whereabouts.

Massi was minister under Ange-Felix Patasse, the president toppled in a bloodless coup by current president Francois Bozize in 2003. He also served as a minister in Bozize’s administration.

In May 2009 Massi was arrested in southern Chad and imprisoned for “fraudulent entry” and “attempted destabilisation of a neighbouring country”, Chad’s Interior Minister Ahmat Mahamat Bachir told AFP at the time, and was reportedly later released.

CPJP fighters clashed with the Central African Republic army several times in 2009 in the northwestern Ndele region.

The fighting has led to population displacement and the creation of a refugee camp for about 6,000 people at Daha on Chad’s side of the border.

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