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Frenchman charged with espionage in Central African Republic

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BANGUI – A French national has been charged with espionage in the Central African Republic, a month after he was arrested with a cache of weapons and ammunition at his home, the African nation’s attorney general said on Wednesday.

Police arrested Juan Remy Quignolot, 55, in May after finding weapons, military fatigues and foreign bank notes at his residence in the capital Bangui. Authorities accused him of having aided and trained rebel fighters since 2013.

The gold- and diamond-producing nation of 4.7 million people has seen repeated bouts of militia violence since 2013, including a civil war that ended in 2016, as well as election-related fighting earlier this year.

“He is being charged with illegal possession of weapons of war and espionage,” Central African Republic’s Attorney General Eric Didier Tambo told Reuters.

Quignolot has denied the accusations.

The French embassy in Bangui and France’s foreign ministry were not immediately available to comment. The foreign ministry said in a statement last month that Quignolot’s arrest had been politicised as part of an anti-French campaign.

Tensions have mounted between France and its former colony as Paris battles Moscow for influence in the country.

France suspended aid and military support to the Central African Republic on Tuesday because of what it said was a failure by the government to stop “massive disinformation campaigns” against France that have targeted its officials.

France had previously provided CAR with 10 million euros ($12.18 million) in budgetary support and maintains a force of nearly 300 soldiers there.

Moscow has ramped up military support in the Central African Republic, sending hundreds of military instructors to arm and train government troops to fend off the country’s myriad rebel movements.

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