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Wednesday, 25 September, 2002, 18:03 GMT 19:03 UK
Children evacuated from Ivorian school
Rescue children in bus
The children were driven out of the city
At least 160 children who were trapped in an international school in the Ivory Coast town of Bouake have been freed by French troops.

The children from the United States, Canada and the Netherlands had been pinned inside the school for a week by heavy fighting between soldiers and rebels.


We want to thank God for protecting us and we want to thank the French for saving us

Sam Parhan, school staff member
The children were immediately driven to out of the city towards the base the French have set up at the airport in the capital city in Yamoussoukro, 100 kilometres (62 miles) away.

Earlier US special forces troops and a small British military mission arrived in the Ivory Coast to help ensure the safety of Westerners in the troubled state.

Altogether there are 600 French in the Bouake and up to 300 Americans with smaller numbers of other nationalities, including 11 British.

Carnival atmosphere

The BBC's correspondent in the Ivory Coast, Paul Welsh, said that the children, most of whom are Americans, waved stars-and-stripes flags as they were driven away in convoy.

French troops
The French were sent in to protect the school

"Everybody is out, everybody is safe and healthy. We are very relieved," said Evan Evans from Florida, a dormitory administrator at the International Christian Academy.

Our correspondent says it is thought the group will be flown to the neighbouring, more stable country of Ghana by US special forces who flew in on two Hercules transport planes a few hours ago.

Continuing violence

After the rescue students and staff spoke of the week spent trapped inside the school.

"It was hard, but it's Africa. It's always hard in Africa," said one boy aged about 15.

"The worst part was when they started shooting at each other," added another, who just gave his name as Jim.

"We want to thank God for protecting us and we want to thank the French for saving us," said Sam Parhan, one of the adults at the school.

The French force had been sent in to find and protect the children.

There is continuing fighting in Bouake as forces loyal to the government of President Laurent Gbagbo try to recapture areas controlled by rebel soldiers since the start of the uprising on 19 September.

The uprising took place in Abidjan, Bouake and Korhogo, in the north of the country.

Government forces quickly regained control of Abidjan but the rebel soldiers remained in charge of Bouake and Korhogo.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
David Shukman reports
"Their school was meant to be a sanctuary in Ivory Coast"

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