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Sunday, 22 September, 2002, 04:24 GMT 05:24 UK
Ivorians told to stop migrant attacks
A man walks past a burning shack in Abidjan
Homes of Burkina Faso workers have been targeted
The authorities in Ivory Coast have called on security forces not to target foreigners as they attempt to restore calm after an apparent coup attempt.

Defence Minister Moise Lida Kouassi told the BBC that the army's only aim was to regain control of territory from rebels.

A boy by a burning shack
Migrant workers say troops and police have stolen their belongings
On Saturday night, a televised address by Prime Minister Pascal Affi Nguessan offered an olive branch to rebels, the AFP news agency reported.

Despite earlier threats of "no negotiations" from ministers, Mr Nguessan said the government was prepared to examine the grievances of the rebels if they laid down their arms and surrendered the areas they held.

Police and soldiers had been torching the homes of migrant workers from Burkina Faso after Ivorian leaders blamed foreigners for Thursday's violent uprising which left hundreds dead.

Officially, the security forces were searching for rebels, but the BBC's West Africa correspondent said the deliberate damage being done to the homes and the theft of valuables pointed to retaliation.

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

Thousands of migrant workers left their shanty town homes and poured onto the streets of the main city, Abidjan, as the security operation spread.

A spokesman for the main opposition leader, the former Prime Minister, Alassane Ouattara, said Mr Ouattara's house was set on fire by government soldiers.

The spokesman told the BBC that Mr Ouattara was safe inside the French embassy in Abidjan.

Reports on state media in Ivory Coast say 270 people have been killed and 300 wounded during the violence.

Fight for control

The government had regained control of Abidjan though rebels remained in charge of Bouake - Ivory Coast's second city - and the northern stronghold of Korhogo.

The President of the Ivory Coast Laurent Gbagbo
President Gbagbo accused foreign nations of helping the rebels
President Laurent Gbagbo promised all-out war on his enemies but the rebels have not heeded his demands to surrender.

Nor was there any immediate response to the conciliatory offer made by the prime minister.

Mr Gbagbo blamed foreign countries for aiding those opposed to his government - widely understood to be a reference to Burkina Faso.

Other senior officials - including the defence minister - also claimed reinforcements had come from a neighbouring state.

Co-ordinated attacks

Thursday's uprising began with co-ordinated attacks on military installations, government sites, and cabinet ministers' houses in Abidjan and other cities and towns.

General Robert Guei (left)
General Guei is blamed for the fighting in which he was killed
Among the dead was Interior Minister Emile Boga Doudou.

Also killed was the man the government has blamed for the uprising - General Robert Guei - who seized power in a 1999 coup.

State television has made an appeal for blood donors, suggesting that there are large numbers of seriously injured people.

The government has repeatedly ordered the rebels to lay down their arms or face the consequences.

President Gbagbo cancelled a scheduled meeting with the Pope at the Vatican to return home to face the crisis.

"Because traitors took advantage of my absence to attack my country and the republic, I could no longer prolong my absence," he said on arriving in the Abidjan airport.

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

"I have therefore come to retake my place as head of state, and head of the armed forces to continue the battle started by the soldiers."

Initial reports said the soldiers who began the uprising were about to be demobilised against their will. They had been brought into the army by General Guei after he seized power.

Our correspondent says this seems to be the basis of the government's claim that General Guei was behind the mutiny.

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

Prominent northern opposition leader Alassane Ouattara is reported to be safe in Abidjan.

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

Since then, the country has gradually been returning to normality, although there has been political violence and army unrest.

Deep political and ethnic divisions remain, and our correspondent says diplomats are warning that there may be more trouble as the government struggles to reassert power.

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

Have your say

Don't abandon the Cote d'Ivoire

Craig Hitchcock, Cote d'Ivoire
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's just a shame...that's all. I'm hearing gunshots outside and my windows are rattling since there is a military camp just behind my house.
Fiona Jacklin, Cote d'Ivoire

Boy! It's crazy out here! We came here to play soccer, but look now what we are into...These people are serious about this coup thing. I just heard they killed a minister, and the million euro question is who's next? All I am thinking of are my wife and kids.
Stuck Senegalese football player, Bouake

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

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

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

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The BBC's Paul Welsh in Abidjan
"In Abidjan the coup is over"
Ecowas Executive General, Dr Ibn Chambas
"Cote D'Ivoire is very critical to the general stability of our subregion"
See also:

19 Sep 02 | Africa
19 Sep 02 | Africa
07 Mar 02 | Country profiles
03 Jul 02 | Africa
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