BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) _ French troops moved into downtown Bangui on Sunday for the second time in as many months to quell an uprising by mutinous soldiers.
The soldiers seized six hostages, including the army chief of staff, the energy minister and the father of the prime minister. They also fired a rocket at the national radio station.
Unconfirmed reports said one mutineer was killed in a gunfight with guards loyal to President Ange-Felix Patasse, who has been holed up in his residence since the mutiny began Saturday.
Sporadic shooting could be heard on the streets Sunday, but there were no reports of confrontations between mutineers and the 1,300 French troops in this former French colony.
Witnesses said the French drove mutineers out of the city center, which they had held Saturday, and took up positions around government buildings and key intersections downtown.
About 200 soldiers are estimated to be participating in the mutiny to demand back wages and control of the national armory. Patasse placed the weapons and ammunition in the hands of presidential guards after a mutiny last month that killed at least nine people. That mutiny was put down with the help of French soldiers.
On Saturday, the mutineers broke into the disputed armory and seized heavy weapons, fired a rocket at the national radio station in an attempt to drive out presidential guards. The station remained in government hands.
Defense Minister Jean Mette-Yapende appealed to the mutineers to put down their weapons and negotiate with the government, but the rebellion appeared to be intensifying Sunday.
``The rebellion is much stronger than a month ago,″ Bangui resident Francois Angelini told the French television network LCI in a telephone interview. Angelini is one of about 2,500 French citizens living in Bangui.
Low-ranking army officers earn less than $80 a month in the Central African Republic. Patasse won the nation’s first multiparty election three years ago on promises to end past governments’ habits of leaving civil servants unpaid for several months at a time, but he now says his government doesn’t have the money to pay back wages.