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CAR minister for youth and sport kidnapped in Bangui

File photo of Armel Mingatoloum Sayo taken on October 10, 2014.
File photo of Armel Mingatoloum Sayo taken on October 10, 2014. AFP

The Central African Republic's minister for youth and sport was kidnapped on Sunday by armed men believed to belong to the anti-Balaka militia group.

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Armel Mingatoloum Sayo’s wife, Nicaise Danielle Sayo, told AP her husband was taken from his car in Bangui's Galabadja neighbourhood while the couple were returning from church on Sunday morning. She said the assailants sped off in an unmarked taxi.

"They instructed us to stop ... They pulled him from his vehicle to put him in their car to head to Boy-Rabe, their stronghold,'' she said.

In a separate incident in the country's north, some twelve officials were reportedly kidnapped by former members of the rival Seleka rebel coalition, which is mostly Muslim.

Mayor Thomas Ndomete and local prefect Gaston Yendemon, along with up to 10 other people, were forced into cars at a roadblock 10 kilometers outside of the town of Kaga-Bandoro on Sunday morning, according to FRANCE 24 sources. Several vehicles were also stolen.

The group included other officials who were visiting the region to speak to locals, FRANCE 24’s Tatiana Mosot reported late on Sunday. “The kidnapping could be a kind of warning ahead of a meeting on reconciliation to be held in February in Bangui,” she said.

Sunday’s abductions follow the kidnapping of French aid worker Claudia Priest and a member of the UN peacekeeping force earlier this week, highlighting insecurity in the war-torn country despite the presence of French and UN peacekeepers. Both were released unharmed.

CAR has been plagued by inter-religious violence ever since the Seleka, a predominantly Muslim rebel group from the country’s north, seized power in a March 2013 coup.

The Seleka officially disbanded after taking control but some former members launched a campaign of killing, raping and looting.

Anti-balaka militias were then formed to fight the former Seleka members, but began launching brutal reprisal attacks on the country’s minority Muslim population.

France launched an ongoing military intervention in its former colony in late 2013. A UN peacekeeping force was dispatched to CAR in September last year to help restore order.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS)

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