Apr 23, 2:28 PM EDT

Ex-Muslim rebels seize C. African Republic town

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BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) -- Officials say Muslim rebels have taken control of a town in northern Central African Republic, causing residents to flee.

Local official Jerome Gouma said heavily armed men arrived in Bouca on Tuesday, and shooting lasted into the night. On Wednesday, he said residents didn't dare go into the streets.

Aubin Ndontibaye, a local priest, said hundreds fled or were sheltering at a Catholic mission in Bouca, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of the capital, Bangui.

The arrival in Bouca of the militants, former members of the rebel movement known as Seleka, is a worrying sign that comes two months after the Seleka left most towns.

Central African Republic exploded into sectarian violence last year amid mounting resentment toward a government led by Seleka. International forces are trying to restore calm.

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