C.Africa says Frenchman with weapons cache held

·2 min read
Authorities in Central African Republic say they found weapons at the home of a person claiming to be a journalist

Authorities in the Central African Republic fighting a major armed rebellion said Monday they had arrested a Frenchman with a large cache of weapons at his home.

Tensions have been high in the country since elections in December, although a recent surge in violence is just the latest in a civil war that has lasted since the ouster of president Francois Bozize in 2013.

"It was someone who said he was a journalist," a government spokesman told AFP, referring to the Frenchman. "And at his home we found a very large cache of weapons.

Valery Zakharov, the Russian national security advisor to President Faustin Archange Touadera, wrote on Twitter: "A foreign citizen was detained in Bangui with an enormous quantity of arms and ammunition."

An investigation was launched to try to clarify the matter, he added.

Humanitarian sources said the man had served as a bodyguard.

"He was briefly in the army during his youth," a diplomat said.

Photographs on social media showed the man in handcuffs standing on the steps of a police station in Bangui surrounded by arms and ammunition.

In March, former president Bozize assumed the leadership of the rebel alliance aiming to overthrow the government.

Russia has since 2018 openly supported the government of President Faustin Archange Touadera, which controls only about one-third of one of Africa's poorest countries that has been wracked by partisan and communal strife.

More than 30,000 people have fled the country due to the violence surrounding the elections, the UN says, while tens of thousands more have been internally displaced.

Most of the territory of the perennially unstable former French colony is divided among numerous armed bands.

Under a bilateral defence accord, Russian paramilitaries from the Wagner Group, a shadowy private military company, operate in the CAR. Their official status is to train the country's army.

They were joined last December by hundreds of other Russian paramilitaries, along with Rwandan troops, who played a key role in thwarting a rebel advance on the capital Bangui ahead of presidential elections.