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Last Updated: Monday, 20 September, 2004, 16:37 GMT 17:37 UK
Troops 'stole Ivorian bank cash'
French tanks at BCEAO in Bouake
French troops are keeping Ivorian banks under surveillance
Twelve French soldiers on peacekeeping duties in Ivory Coast have been arrested in connection with a bank theft there last week.

The troops had been assigned to protect a branch of the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) and were charged with stealing $120,000 (100,000 euros).

French military spokesman Colonel Henry Aussavy said the accused soldiers were being sent home to face French justice.

More than 4,000 French troops are serving alongside UN peacekeepers.

We are dealing with these accusations very severely so that they do not tarnish the rest of our forces in the country
Colonel Henry Aussavy
French military spokesman
The robbery came as banks throughout the eight countries of the Economic and Monetary Union of West Africa (UEMOA) were in the process of replacing a 1992 series of banknotes with more secure bills.

The branch where the theft was recorded, in the rebel-held western town of Man, had been put under extra surveillance following a series of thefts from Ivorian banks last year.

"These soldiers profited from their assignment, protecting this bank branch, to rob it of these monies," Colonel Aussavy said.

"We are dealing with these accusations very severely so that they do not tarnish the rest of our forces in the country," he added.

Officials said no force was used during the theft.

At the beginning of the year, four French soldiers were accused of seizing cash from a bank after a robbery in the rebel stronghold of Bouake.

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