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Wednesday, 25 September, 2002, 10:23 GMT 11:23 UK
UK troops sent to Ivory Coast
French troops in Ivory Coast
French tanks are 100km from Bouake in Ivory Coast
British soldiers have been deployed to the Ivory Coast to help British citizens caught up in a coup.

Foreign nationals, mainly American and French, are trapped by fighting in the West African country.

Around 200 US troops arrived in neighbouring Ghana on Wednesday on a mission to safeguard about 160 American schoolchildren trapped by fighting.

A small team of military experts have been sent from the UK to see if further British intervention is required.

Trapped children

The British troops will initially be looking at what would be required to ensure the safety of British residents there, a Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said.

At least 270 people have been killed since the coup last week and thousands have been displaced by the fighting.

It is understood German troops have also been deployed as well as French and American but sources could not say how many British soldiers were involved.

The US school children are in Bouake, which is still held by rebel soldiers who staged an uprising against the government of President Gbagbo.

Bloody rising

About 300 Americans and 600 French nationals are trapped in Bouake from where there are reports of continued heavy fighting.

The US and British deployment - at the request of the US ambassador - comes as Ivorian army troops are trying to recapture Bouake.

France - the former colonial power - has also reinforced its military presence in Ivory Coast with the intention of evacuating foreigners.

A force of about 250 French soldiers is 60 km from Bouake, a French military spokesman told the BBC's World Today programme.

The rebels' attempt to gain control of the Ivory Coast is being described as the bloodiest coup in the history of the nation.

The uprising is believed to have been started by a core group of former soldiers angry over their dismissal for suspected disloyalty.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Paul Welsh in Abidjan
"The French seem to be preparing to do the majority of the work"

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22 Sep 02 | Africa
24 Sep 02 | Africa
24 Sep 02 | Africa
25 Sep 02 | Africa
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