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Sunday, 22 September, 2002, 12:39 GMT 13:39 UK
France sends troops to Ivory Coast
Man carries possessions from his home in Abidjan
Many residents' houses were torched in the fighting
France has sent troop reinforcements to Ivory Coast to ensure the safety of French citizens and other foreign nationals, as unrest continues.

Man from migrant workers district in Abidjan walks past blazing home
Migrants' homes were burnt after foreigners were blamed for helping the coup
Up to 200 soldiers, drawn from other French bases in West Africa, are now in the country in what officials describe as a "precautionary measure".

Ivory Coast has seen three days of fighting in what the Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo's government is describing as a failed coup by mutinous troops.

State media in Ivory Coast says 270 people have been killed since Thursday.

In Abidjan, a spokesman for the main opposition leader, Alassane Ouattara, said Mr Ouattara's house had been destroyed by government soldiers, but that Mr Ouattara was safe inside the French embassy.

France already has at least 500 troops in its former colony, where some 20,000 French nationals are thought to live.

No intervention France has agreements with the Ivory Coast to help restore order if necessary but the BBC's West Africa correspondent, Paul Welsh, says for now it seems unlikely that they will become directly involved.

French army spokesman Christian Baptiste said: "This violent crisis is an internal affair, and the concern of our political authorities is that our citizens as well as those of the international community don't pay the price."

But our correspondent says the reinforcement of the French garrison is also designed to send a message to the rebels that it is time to negotiate.

Fight for control

Following President Gbagbo's national address hinting at foreign aid for the rebels, hundreds of foreigners' homes in the main city Abidjan have been burned down and thousands of people have packed up and taken to the road in search of safety.

Security forces loyal to Mr Gbagbo headed north from Abidjan to crush rebel uprisings in the country's second largest city, Bouake, currently controlled by the rebels, while further skirmishes were reported in Katiola, about 250 miles (400 km) north-west of Abidjan, Reuters news agency reported.

Witnesses said that the rebels had been recruiting hundreds of young men in Bouake.

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

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

Prime Minister Pascal Affi Nguessan offered an olive branch to rebels in a televised address on Saturday evening.

Despite earlier threats of "no negotiations" from the president, 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.

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.

Millions of immigrants, mostly from Burkina Faso, live in Ivory Coast and play a vital role as cocoa farmers.

Co-ordinated attacks

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

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

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

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

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

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.



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


Is the international community waiting for a year of bloodbath before physically defusing the tension?

Benjamin Armstrong, USA
What is happening right now in Cote d'Ivoire is a real disgrace for a country which used to be one of the most stable in Africa. The Ivorian population should refuse anything that keeps them backward and (not point) their finger to other brothers whom they refer to as migrants or foreigners.
Ibrahima Diakhate, USA

I am a Liberian citizen residing in the United States. I think that the Ivorians needs to realize that war is not the answer. If they keep on this path for a long time they are going to regret the moment they started a conflict.
Buddy Kpola, U.S.A

The government should exercise restraint. Reports from citizens of Cote d'Ivoire in the United States say that the government of President Gbagbo is carrying out nothing but vendetta against its political opponents.
Jeremiah Paye Shar, Liberian Residing In the USA

I just got out of their in time. I was visiting my brother who was doing work there. There are soldiers everywhere in the city. I hope my brother can get out soon.
Ryan, Texas, USA

The political troubles of this country have thrown day-to-day life completely out of gear. People can be seen buying groceries from supermarkets as if there will be no tomorrow. Certain areas have also witnessed a sudden rise in the price of general commodities.
Abhinav Anand, India

I am very much concerned not only because I have relatives in the Ivory Coast, but because of what I perceive as the hypocrisy of the international community when it comes to Africa. Is the international community waiting for a year of bloodbath before physically defusing the tension?
Benjamin Armstrong, USA

Shame on the government and the rebels. I'm calling the international community to intervene to stop the blood lust.
Martin Ble, UK

Attacking immigrants and looting their valuables, as alleged, will never be a solution to the crisis. I urge Ivorian natives to stop that immediately. I am really feeling for the natives and immigrants of this country where I spent two good years of my life as an immigrant.
Saeed Omar, Somalian living in Ghana

It is sad, the developments, in Ivory Coast, but the people of the country must not rest on the excuse of mutiny to attack other nationals, they should be reasonable enough to know that he who lives in a glass house shouldn't throw stones.
Philip Nwosu, Nigeria

Fellow West Africans, let us wake up and immediately put an end to the ugly unfolding situation in our neighbour's house. Liberians have a common saying that says "town trip is not for rat alone".
Joseph Ngafua Bolay, USA

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Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Paul Welsh in Abidjan
"The government believes... Burkina Faso was behind the coup"
Ecowas executive general Doctor 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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