REBELS in the Central African Republic have taken control of Sibut, a strategic town north of the capital, Bangui.

The rebels took the town after the national army and Chadian soldiers stationed there withdrew, ramping up tensions ahead of planned peace talks.

The three-week-old uprising by the insurgents poses the biggest threat yet to President Francois Bozize's near-10-year rule.

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The Economic Community of Central African States announced a decision to send in more troops ahead of talks between the rebels and the government in January.