- Armed groups opposed to President Faustin Archange Touadera carried out simultaneous raids on Bangui's outskirts at dawn.
BANGUI: Rebel forces in the Central African Republic on Wednesday launched two attacks close to the capital Bangui that were swiftly repelled, Interior Minister Henri Wanzet Linguissara said.
Armed groups opposed to President Faustin Archange Touadera carried out simultaneous raids on Bangui's outskirts at dawn, he told AFP.
It is the first time the rebels have struck so close to the city since elections on December 27, a vote preceded by accusations of an attempted coup.
Fighting was still underway, said the spokesman for the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSCA, Lieutenant-Colonel Abdoulaziz Fall, who only mentioned one attack.
The attacks took place nine and 12 kilometres (five and seven miles) from the capital, targeting two army brigades, the minister said.
"Thanks to the bravery of our forces and bilateral support, we were able to repel the assailants, who are now in disarray," he said.
Russia and Rwanda last month dispatched support, comprising heavily-armed Rwandan troops and Russian paramilitaries, to shore up Touadera's government under bilateral accords.
"This morning at around 6 am in Bangui, the MINUSCA position at kilometre mark 12 was attacked by armed elements," Fall said.
UN troops fired back and reinforcements were sent, he said, adding that there were no casualties among the peacekeepers.
"Exchange of fire has lessened, but the situation remains tense," he said.
The streets of Bangui were deserted in mid-morning and there was a heavy military presence, an AFP reporter saw.
In the runup to the elections, an anti-Touadera alliance of six armed groups called the Coalition of Patriots sought to advance on Bangui but were thwarted.
Their operation, according to Touadera, was an attempted putsch fomented with the help of his predecessor, Francois Bozize.
Since then, the rebels have since carried out sporadic attacks, chiefly in towns far from the capital and on the RN3 highway, the crucial supply line linking Bangui with neighbouring Cameroon.
Vladimir Monteiro, the spokesman for the UN mission, said UN and national troops repelled a "violent" attack on Saturday at Bouar, the country's fifth largest town, which straddles the RN3 about 350 kms northwest of Bangui.
In Grimari, 300 kms northeast of Bangui, armed groups fired rockets on Sunday at a MINUSCA base, Fall said.
Touadera was declared victor of the ballot on January 4, although the CAR's political opposition has cried foul.
The results account for only about half of registered voters, as hundreds of thousands were unable to cast their vote in areas held by rebels.
Militias claiming to represent ethnic or other groups control two-thirds of CAR's territory, raising income from mineral resources and "taxes" on traders and roadblocks.