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Thursday, 19 September, 2002, 19:42 GMT 20:42 UK
'Coup attempt' in Ivory Coast
Fighting in Abidjan
Ivorian soldier fires on mutineers
The former military ruler of the Ivory Coast and the country's interior minister have been killed during an uprising by soldiers that the government has called an attempted coup d'etat.

General Robert Guei
General Guei is blamed for the fighting
Speaking on state television, Ivorian Defence Minister Moise Lida Kouassi, said that key areas were now back under control, and that just two small pockets of resistance remained, in the towns of Bouake and Korhogo.

According to a government spokesman, forces loyal to the government killed the ex-military leader, General Robert Guei, whom the government accused of being behind the uprising.

The death of Interior Minister Emile Boga Doudou from wounds received in an attack on his home was also announced by the government and confirmed by diplomatic sources.

If you are in the Ivory Coast, click here to e-mail us your experience

Opposition leader

Reuters news agency reported that an armoured vehicle broke through the gate of the home of opposition leader Alassane Ouattara, looking for him.

A spokesman for Mr Ouattara told Reuters that the former prime minister fled his home as troops arrived. The aide said he did not know where the leader was now.

Ups and downs
Before 1999 - Relative calm and stability
1999 - Coup; General Guei takes power
2000 - Guei flees after rigging elections;
Gbagbo wins controversial elections
2001 - coup attempt fails
2002 Troops mutiny, Guei killed

A court fight over Mr Ouattara's eligibility to stand for elections caused massive controversy in the country, but his party was recently invited to participate in government.

Thursday's uprising saw heavy fighting break out in and around Abidjan. Eyewitnesses say bodies are lying on the streets.

The shooting started before dawn, with sustained exchanges of heavy machine-gun fire and mortar barrages in several areas of the city.

Military sources told Reuters that more than 20 soldiers and civilians had died, adding that the toll was likely much higher.

The BBC's Paul Welsh reports from Abidjan that the government appeared to have regained control of key areas of the city, but that the town of Bouake, north of Abidjan, was still under rebel control.

Three national football teams are trapped in a Bouake hotel. Footballers from Senegal, Gambia and Sierra Leone are in the country for a tournament which has now been suspended.

Previous coup

The former French colony had its reputation as a haven of relative political and economic stability shattered by a coup in 1999 when the military overthrew President Henri Konan Bedie.

Since then, the country has gradually been returning to political normality, although there have been rumours of coup attempts and army unrest.

Ivory Coast's President Laurent Gbagbo, who came to power after stormy elections in late 2000, is cutting short a state visit to Rome to deal with the crisis.

Presidential aide Alain Toussaint, speaking from Rome, said that the security forces had intervened after about 750 soldiers mutinied in the commercial capital, Abidjan, and other units rebelled in Bouake and Korhogo region in the north.

"Obviously the uprising was prepared ahead of time, knowing the president would be out of the country," Mr Toussaint said.

Mr Toussaint said General Guei, whom he alleged had a role in the uprising, was killed by loyalist forces.

Prime Minister Pascal Affi N'Guessan had said initially that soldiers disgruntled over their imminent demobilisation were to blame for the uprising, and that they were demanding reintegration into the army.

But the Defence Minister, Mr Lida Kouassi, later said: "There are indications which show that we are facing a coup attempt."

His house and that of the interior minister were attacked by the armed men. He told the French news agency AFP that his wife had been kidnapped and he had no news of her.

Sanctuary


To make ourselves heard we only have our arms.

Mutineer

On Friday he is due to have a private audience with Pope John II at the Vatican.

AFP said it had spoken to one mutineer, Kone Daouda, who said that he rejected his demobilisation.

"We've been in the army two years. We refuse.

"To make ourselves heard we only have our arms. We'll go all the way."

The Ivory Coast is a major cocoa exporter and has sub-Saharan Africa's third largest economy.

If you have witnessed the uprising, or have any comments to make, please use the postform below.

Have your say I'm English, and have been living in the Ivory Coast since the very beginning of 2000 ... just after the first uprising. What is so tragic is the Ivory Coast is a great country, with wonderful and friendly people, who are fundamentally peace loving. So much time, effort and hard work to bring this country back to an economically stable position, and to gain the confidence of the rest of the world has probably just been blown away. All of you out there ... don't abandon the Cote d'Ivoire, just because of a few hotheads!! Hang in there!!
Craig Hitchcock, Cote d'Ivoire


It is very tense

Dave, USA
I am sitting in a small hotel just outside of Abidjan and I have seen truckloads of troops being brought into the city. Besides the fighting, local citizens have been looting some shops but not others. No one is allowed in the streets so whenever soldiers appear everyone one runs. It is very tense.
Dave, USA

I'm a Spanish citizen working in the embassy in Abidjan. I have been told by very reliable sources that this is more serious that expected. We are facing a real coup d'etat here. Although Abidjan seems to be under government control, the situation is not clear whatsoever. Fire has stopped but nobody is on the streets, not a soul.
Elías, Spain

Colin. You should contact the British Embassy on +225 2030 0803 (consular number) if you haven't already done so. I worked there a couple of years ago too and find it sad that the place is suffering like this.
Darren Owen, UK

I'm a UK citizen who is currently stuck in a hotel in Abidjan (I was meant to be leaving today). The city is in total lock down and there is a great deal of rumour and uncertainty.
Colin Iles, UK



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 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Paul Welsh in Abidjan
"There are more than a few pockets of resistance"
The BBC's Mark Doyle
"Ivory Coast is still in its political infancy"
Local journalist Emmanuel Goujan
"The place has been attacked this morning"
See also:

19 Sep 02 | Africa
19 Sep 02 | Africa
27 Oct 00 | Africa
07 Mar 02 | Country profiles
03 Jul 02 | Africa
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