French aid worker kidnapped in CAR

Two aid workers, including a 67-year-old French woman, were kidnapped on Monday in the capital of the strife-torn Central African Republic, the French government said.

French aid worker kidnapped in CAR
French soldiers on patrol in Central African Republic, where a French aid worker has been kidnapped. Photo: AFP

The pair, who worked for the Catholic medical charity CODIS, were stopped by four men carrying Kalashnikov rifles in the centre of Bangui as they returned from a town north of the capital, their driver said.

The second aid worker is said to be a local man.

"France condemns this act… and calls for those responsible to free our compatriot as soon as possible," the presidency said in a statement, adding their embassy in Bangui was in contact with the city's archbishop, who has been holding talks with the kidnappers.

The Catholic brother at the wheel of the aid workers' 4×4 said he was robbed by the men who came from the mainly Christian anti-balaka militia, angry at the arrest of one of their leaders by UN peacekeepers on Saturday.

"The three of us were coming from Damara (to the north of Bangui)… when he were stopped by a group of four anti-balaka armed with Kalashnikovs in the middle of the city," Brother Elkana Ndawatcha said.

"They let me go after they robbed me of my mobile telephone, my bank documents and my money. One of them took my place at the wheel and took my colleagues deeper into Boy-Rabe district," one of the anti-balaka strongholds in the northeast of the city.

One person was killed as militia fighters furious at the arrest of Rodrigue Nagibona — known as "General Andjilo" and accused of masterminding massacres of minority Muslims in December 2013 — vented their anger in the district on Sunday night, a police source said.

"Tension is high in Boy-Rabe. One person was shot and killed during the night, and a lot of firing was heard during the night and even this morning," he added.

There were reports of earlier kidnap attempts in Bangui on Sunday.

Violence between rival militias has plunged the deeply poor, landlocked country into  bloody chaos.

Mostly Muslim Seleka fighters took power in the majority Christian country in March 2013 before being overthrown by mainly Christian anti-balaka militias. Both sides have been accused of committing atrocities.


Two guards freed at French prison as hostage standoff ends

An inmate armed with a homemade weapon took two guards hostage at a high-security prison in northwest France on Tuesday before both were freed unharmed five hours later, authorities said.

Two guards freed at French prison as hostage standoff ends
Police tactical units arrived by helicopter as the hostage situation unfolded. Photo: AFP
Police tactical units arrived by helicopter as the hostage situation unfolded at the Conde-sur-Sarthe Penitentiary Centre, which holds dangerous or radicalised prisoners and those with serious discipline problems.
The prisoner, armed with the improvised weapon, had taken the guard and the female trainee hostage during meal time, officials said.
The guard was released first and then the female trainee was also freed, both “safe and sound”, before the prisoner surrendered, the national Prison Administration Directorate said.
Photo: AFP
No further details were immediately available about how the guards were freed or whether it involved a negotiation.
A justice ministry source said the inmate has a history of psychiatric problems and hostage taking. He has convictions for robbery, rape and for the murder of a prison cellmate.
Elite police units had arrived at the prison by three helicopters, an AFP photographer at the scene said.
Security measures were increased in Conde-sur-Sarthe after a prisoner stabbed two guards with a homemade knife in March. After failed negotiations to end a standoff, security units launched an assault, wounding the prisoner.