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Central African Warfare Eases Factions Honor Cease-Fire Ordered By Republic Of Congo Rivals

The two men battling for control of this Central African country ordered their forces to lay down their weapons Wednesday, and despite occasional gunfire in the capital, the cease-fire appeared to be taking hold.

Earlier orders from the two leaders had done little to calm the violence in Brazzaville, and mortars, grenades and machine-gun fire had pounded the capital into the evening.

The warfare raised questions over whether President Pascal Lissouba and Gen. Denis Sassou-Nguesso could control their fighters, who have reveled in a week of wanton killing and looting.

But late Wednesday, Sassou-Nguesso went on the air to “ask that the arms be silenced and hope that other parties at least this time respect their commitments.”

The relative quiet that followed the broadcast encouraged some Western officials, but it was not immediately clear if the cease-fire would hold.

“We expect tonight will be much quieter than the others,” said Col. Henry Pelissier of the French evacuation force.

Witnesses say the worst-hit areas of Brazzaville are strewn with human bodies.

“They were shooting all around us, at anything that moved,” said Margarita Martiin, a Belgian who hid for two days in her apartment in the city center. “It was really war.”

Brazzaville slipped into chaos on June 5 when President Lissouba sent in troops to disarm the Cobras, the private militia of former dictator Sassou-Nguesso.

With presidential elections slated for July 27, Lissouba apparently feared Sassou-Nguesso would use his forces to foment civil unrest and hurt the president’s chance for re-election.

Tags: Civil War

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