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C. African Republic jails 16 ex-rebels in 1st case

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September 12, 2013 03:49 PM EST | AP

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BANGUI, Central African Republic — A court in Central African Republic has convicted 16 former rebels of pillaging and other crimes in the aftermath of this year's coup.

Court President Abel Daouda sentenced each of the men to eight years in prison on Wednesday. It marked the first time that rebel fighters who helped overthrow the president had faced trial.

However, five other defendants managed to escape before the ruling.

The rebels who formed the coalition known as Seleka were blamed for widespread looting and violence in the days after President Francois Bozize fled after a decade in power.

Their leader, Michel Djotodia, has since become president and has vowed to restore public order through a disarmament campaign. Reports of massacres and other atrocities in the distant provinces though have intensified in recent weeks.