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Last Updated: Saturday, 13 December, 2003, 16:30 GMT
Disarmament begins in Ivory Coast
Ivory Coast has begun a disarmament process, with both government forces and former rebels collecting weapons used in the bitter civil conflict.

A spokesman for French forces in Ivory Coast, which are monitoring the disarmament process, said it would continue until 26 December.

The French will then check all weapons are being safely stored by each side.

About 3,800 French peacekeepers man a buffer zone separating the rebel north from the government-controlled south.

The head of the military wing of the former northern rebels, Colonel Soumayila Bakayoko, told the BBC that his men had begun storing their weapons.

He added he trusted that forces loyal to President Laurent Gbagbo would do the same.

The Ivory Coast has been divided since an attempted coup 15 months ago, when a troop mutiny escalated into a full-scale rebellion following discontent among northern Muslims against the mainly Christian and animist south.

Thousands were killed in the conflict but, although the fighting has stopped, Ivory Coast remains divided.

Abidjan instability

In the commercial capital Abidjan, 19 people were killed on Friday after armed men attacked military police outside the national television station.

Of the dead, 18 were attackers and one was a military policeman.

The identity of the men was not clear, but director of Ivorian Television RTI, Jean-Paul Dahily said the assailants wore black clothes bearing the name "Nindja".

The name is a reference to one of the militias which has sprung up since the 2002 uprising in support of President Laurent Gbagbo.


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