Reuters International

BANGUI (Reuters) - Six police officers in the Central African Republic were freed on Friday after they were taken hostage in the capital by members of the former Seleka rebel group, a mediator and a senior presidential aide said.

The officers were handed over to U.N. peacekeepers upon their release, parliamentary deputy Amadou Aboubakar Kabirou, who was part of the mediation team, said.

He gave no further details.

Kabirou said he was himself kidnapped on Tuesday while negotiating with the hostage takers but was freed on Friday.

The kidnap took place in the mainly-Muslim PK-5 suburb of Bangui in retaliation for the arrest of 26 residents suspected of illegally bringing in arms. It underscores the scale of the task President Faustin-Archange Touadéra faces in restoring the state's authority after years of violence and lawlessness.

Insecurity has persisted since Touadéra took office in March, after winning an election intended to draw a line under inter-communal and inter-religious violence pitting the mainly Muslim Seleka against the mainly Christian anti-balaka militias since 2013.

(Reporting by Crispin Dembassa-Kette; Writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Tim Cocks)

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