Cameroon frees 18 hostages seized by Central African Republic rebels

YAOUNDE Mon May 5, 2014 7:55am EDT

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YAOUNDE (Reuters) - Cameroon's army has freed 18 civilians seized in the country's east last week by rebels from neighboring Central African Republic, state television reported on Monday.

The hostages were freed during an operation overnight, the statement said, without giving further details.

Last week, state radio in Bertoua - the capital of Cameroon's East Region - had reported that the group was captured in the border zone between May 1-2. Fifteen people were seized while travelling in three vehicles on a local road and the other three were captured in a nearby village.

State radio reported at the time that the captors had demanded the release of their leader, Abdoulaye Miskine, in detention in the capital Yaounde.

Miskine's Democratic Forces for the Central African People was aligned to a mostly Muslim rebel group known as Seleka which overthrew President Francois Bozize in March 2013 before being forced to cede power themselves in January.

Thousands of people have been killed in intercommunal violence in the former French colony in recent months in tit-for-tat killing between Muslims and the majority Christian population.

Close to a million have been displaced from their homes, with many fleeing over the porous border into Cameroon.

(Writing by Emma Farge; Editing by David Lewis and Daniel Flynn)

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