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Last Updated: Friday, 12 December, 2003, 14:36 GMT
Ivory Coast TV attack 'repulsed'
Para-military gendarmes in Abidjan
Security has been increased after the attack
Armed men have attacked military police outside the national television station in the main Ivory Coast city, Abidjan.

At least 19 people were killed in the failed attack, a minister said, urging people to go about their business.

Nearby roads were closed as bodies were removed, reports AFP news agency. Paramilitary police and armoured vehicles patrolled the streets.

Correspondents say this is the most deadly incident in Abidjan since a rebellion split Ivory Coast a year ago.

'Ninjas'

AFP reports there were three simultaneous attacks in different areas of Abidjan.

State television has shown pictures of four bodies, some wearing magic charms.

Shaken residents gathered at the site of the gunbattle on Friday - a junction called the "Crossroads of death" due to the frequent traffic accidents.

"They tried to attack the (state television). Our riposte left more than 10 dead. Since then we have been patrolling to put an end to this attack," said Ahosse Amie, a sergeant in the paramilitary police.

Two weeks ago, armed men took over the station, urging President Laurent Gbagbo to resume war with the rebels, who control the north.

The director of Ivorian Television, RTI, Jean-Paul Dahily said the assailants wore black clothes bearing the name "Ninja" - a reference to one of the militias which has sprung up since the 2002 uprising in support of President Laurent Gbagbo.

Eighteen attacks and one military policeman were killed, Defence Minister Rene Amani said in a statement on national television.

Three people have been arrested, said presidential spokesman Toussaint Alain.

Rapprochement

The attack follows signs that tensions between the New Forces rebels and the government are easing.

President Laurent Gbagbo(R) and New Forces chief of staff Soumaila Bakayoko
President Gbagbo (r) has reportedly agreed to hand powers to a neutral prime minister
The rebel have agreed to withdraw their heavy weapons from the buffer zone, starting on Saturday.

Deputy rebel leader Louis Dacoury-Tabley said that President Gbagbo had agreed to implement the French-brokered peace accords and hand over powers to the neutral prime minister.

"A new political environment is being created," he said.

"If he says that, then we say we will return to government."

The rebels pulled out of the power-sharing government in September.

Some 3,800 peacekeepers from France, the former colonial power, are manning the buffer zone which separates the rebel-held north from the government-controlled south.


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