President David Backo, who toppled former emperor Bokassa in a bloodless coup last week, said the deposed dictator personally had murdered children in a massacre last spring.

"I have direct evidence that the emperor went at night to Bangui's central prison and bashed children to death there on April 18," Dacko told students at the presidential palace. Between 50 and 100 children aged 8 to 16 reportedly were killed.

Last month a five-nation African commission accused Bokassa, who was overthrown later while visiting in Libya, of ordering the massacre, which followed demonstrations by pupils against compulsory school uniforms.

Dacko also said 37 Libyan troops had been arrested, but many more had escaped and gone into hiding. French military sources said a Libyan plane with several tons of munitions had been captured by French troops as it landed at Bangui Airport. France supported the coup by Dacko, a cousin of Bokassa and former adviser to the deposed emperor.

Dacko said he would seek Bokassa's extradition. The former emperor had been aboard his personal jet at a military airbase near Paris, but a French government spokesman said early Monday that Bokassa left the base for an undisclosed African destination.

Meanwhile, jubilant crowds in Bangui toppled a giant statue of the deposed emperor.