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Central African Republic hospitals looted after coup

Rebel leader says he will stay in power for 3 years

BANGUI, Central African Republic — Aid groups and the international community on Tuesday condemned widespread looting in Central African Republic’s capital, saying that even hospitals had been robbed in the aftermath of a weekend coup that ousted the president of a decade.

Efforts to restore order to Bangui, a city of 700,000, came as a rebel leader declared himself the new president and announced he would stay in power for three years.

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Continuing violence in Central African Republic was preventing critically wounded patients from getting the help they needed, said the French medical aid group, Medecins Sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders.

‘‘MSF condemns the looting and robberies of our facilities and reminds all parties that medical personnel must be respected and protected and must be granted all available help in the performance of their duties,’’ said Serge St. Louis, MSF head of mission in Bangui.

UN spokesman Martin Nesirky also said Tuesday that ‘‘widespread looting is continuing, including of one pediatric hospital.’’

More than 1,000 armed rebels from the alliance known as Seleka attacked the capital on Saturday, forcing longtime President Francois Bozize into exile in neighboring Cameroon. The fierce fighting left at least 13 South African soldiers dead and an untold number of civilian casualties.

It was the latest political turmoil to destabilize Central African Republic, a country where leaders since independence from France in 1960 have come to power or been ousted in a series of coups and rebellions.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell criticized the ‘‘illegitimate seizure of power.’’

‘‘We strongly condemn these actions,’’ Ventrell told reporters. ‘‘The Seleka leadership must account for its trail of destruction.’’

On Monday, rebel leader Michel Djotodia made his first public declaration since overthrowing Bozize, stating that he planned to stay in power until 2016.

The leader of the rebel coalition justified the coup by saying that Bozize had veered into dictatorship during his 10 years in power.

‘‘Through us, it was the entire population of Central African Republic that rose up as a single man against the president,’’ Djotodia said, according to Radio France Internationale.

Meanwhile, French forces protecting Bangui’s main airport opened fire on three cars that were speeding toward a security checkpoint, said the French Defense Ministry.

The cars, carrying Indian and Chadian citizens, continued despite warning shots. Two Indian citizens were killed, and the wounded Indian and Chadian passengers were taken for medical care, the defense ministry said in the statement Monday.

France is investigating the shooting, the statement said.

The rebels’ advance started last week when they pushed past Damara, a town 47 miles to the northeast.

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