CAR votes under a cloud of violence

People in Central African Republic voted on Sunday (December 27) under a cloud of violence as the government, international partners, and the United Nations tried to hold off a rebel advance.

Militias hostile to President Faustin-Archange Touadera have stepped up attacks in the run up to the presidential and legislative election.

That's after several candidates, including former president Francois Bozize, were barred from standing earlier this month.

Touadera and the UN - which has 12,800 uniformed peacekeepers in the impoverished but mineral-rich country - have accused Bozize of being behind the rebel offensive and there are concerns that a substantial number of Central African Republic's 1.8 million voters will be disenfranchised by the violence - specifically in remote towns, some of which are controlled by armed rebels.

Some polling stations in the capital Bangui opened with a slight delay amid heavy security following sporadic gunfire heard during the night.

Heavy gunfire was heard early on Sunday in the town of Bouar, around 270 miles northwest of the capital, according to one resident.

Opposition figures had called for Sunday's vote to be delayed but this was rejected by the government and the UN amid fears a power vacuum could worsen the crisis.