A Frenchman has been arrested in the Central African Republic after police discovered a “very large arsenal” of weapons in his home.
A spokesman for the government told the French news agency AFP the man, who claimed to be a journalist, was detained in the capital, Bangui, on Monday.
Humanitarian sources said the man had worked as a bodyguard for several organisations in the CAR, which is fighting a major armed rebellion seeking to overthrow the government.
Centrafrique : arrestation d’un Français détenant un important arsenal de guerre https://t.co/O0cmml2RxW
Valery Zakharov, the Russian national security advisor to President Faustin Archange Touadera, said on Twitter the man had been detained with “huge amounts of weapons and ammunition”.
Russia has deployed hundreds of paramilitaries from the private security companies to the CAR to support government forces.
Photos shared on social media showed a man with his hands tied, surrounded by police officers on the steps of a police station, with weapons, ammunition and military equipment at his feet.
A diplomatic source told AFP the man had done “a short stint” in the army during his youth.
Although Touadera was re-elected in polls held in December, opposition parties supported by former president François Bozizé have rejected the results.
Rebels groups seized a series of towns in the north and west of the CAR, and reached the outskirts of the capital in January – cutting off food supplies to Bangui.
With the help of Russian and Rwandan forces, CAR troops were able to drive the rebels back and retake many of towns.
More than 276,000 people have been displaced in the CAR since mid-December, with the UN estimating some 1.8 million people are in need of urgent help.