Witnesses say heavily armed rebels fled a key town not far from Central African Republic's capital as French and African peacekeepers deployed.

Eugene Sangami, a resident of Sibut, said roughly 200 Seleka fighters fled under heavy rain early Sunday, some heading north and some to the east. Sibut is 110 miles (180 kilometers) north of Bangui.

The Seleka coalition overthrew the president of 10 years in March last year, and some feared the rebels were gathering in Sibut to oust a transitional government appointed last month.

A general with the African peacekeepers said Sibut was under their control Saturday, but residents said French and African peacekeepers did not enter the town until several hours after the rebels fled Sunday.

A Seleka commander threatened that the rebels would return.