BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) — Police have arrested a French national accused of supporting rebels in volatile Central African Republic after discovering a cache of weapons and ammunition at his residence, authorities said.
Juan Remy Quignolot, 55, was detained on Monday after the search that also uncovered military fatigues and bank notes in multiple currencies, according to Attorney General Eric Didier Tambo.
Photos had circulated on social media purporting to show Quignolot alongside Ali Darassa, the leader of a rebel movement known as the Union for Peace in Central African Republic.
The arrest comes amid somewhat of a diplomatic chill between Central African Republic and former colonizer France as Bangui has deepened its relationship with Moscow. Anti-French sentiment also remains high in many parts of Central African Republic.
However, government spokesman Ange Maxime Kazagui said that Quignolot was not targeted because he is a French national.
“An investigation is underway, and we must leave room for the justice system to do its work,” Kazagui said.
Quignolot, a former soldier and paratrooper in the French army, has denied the accusations and said he was a trainer for a private security company in Bangui. The company, though, has denied any affiliation with him.
The Union for Peace in Central African Republic, known as UPC, is made up of militants who were once part of the mostly Muslim rebel coalition known as Seleka that overthrew the president in 2013.
Seleka’s leader Michel Djotodia briefly served as head of state before he handed over power to an interim government under mounting international pressure in 2014.
The turmoil and violence of the Seleka rule gave rise to another militia known as the anti-Balaka, that later targeted Muslim civilians and forced tens of thousands to flee the capital. Many were killed even as they sought to reach refuge in neighboring countries.