Bangui (Central African Republic) (AFP) - The UN peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic said on Sunday it arrested 10 heavily armed men, who a minister identified as former rebels.
Two of the men, Abdoulaye Hissene and Haroun Gaye, were warlords from the majority-Muslim Seleka rebellion, whose ouster in 2013 of longtime president Francois Bozize triggered a brutal sectarian war, according to Security Minister Jean-Serge Bokassa.
"Members of the MINUSCA force stopped a convoy of some 35 heavily armed men travelling in seven vehicles" on Saturday near the centre of the country, the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSCA said in a statement.
"Of these 35 individuals, several were wanted under arrest warrants," it added.
"The convoy left Bangui late on August 12, 2016, and exchanged fire with the national security forces at several checkpoints along the way. These incidents left several people dead and injured," MINUSCA said.
A UN peacekeeping source told AFP all the casualties were rebels.
"MINUSCA's ground forces were backed by air cover. When a helicopter circled overhead, the members of the convoy fled into the surrounding forest, pursued by MINUSCA forces. MINUSCA captured and detained 10 men," the statement said, without identifying the detainees.
The other 25 managed to flee, though the MINUSCA source said the peacekeepers were working to track them down.
Abdoulaye Hissene, a former rebel "general", was arrested in March, but he escaped after fellow fighters stormed the centre where he was being held in Bangui.
Haroun Gaye, who was added to the UN sanctions list in December last year, heads a radical ex-Seleka faction.
The Seleka rebellion's takeover in 2013 plunged the poor nation into chaos, as its majority Muslim fighters went to war with the mainly Christian anti-Balaka (machete) militia.
Thousands of people were killed and hundreds of thousands more were forced to flee their homes.
Elected in a peaceful vote in February this year, President Faustin-Archange Touadera is pushing a drive to disarm armed groups and restore security.