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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 February 2007, 09:59 GMT
EU envoy shot dead in Ivory Coast
Residence of Michel Niaucel
The home of Mr Niaucel was heavily protected
A French diplomat working in Ivory Coast has been found shot dead.

The man - named as Michel Niaucel, 53 - was in charge of security for European Union missions in West Africa, French diplomats say.

His body was found at his home in the country's main city, Abidjan. The circumstances of his death are unclear.

An investigation is under way. There have been many attacks on foreigners since the start of the civil war which split Ivory Coast in two in 2002.

In November 2004, more than 8,000 Westerners - mainly French - were evacuated after a clash between France's troops in the country and the Ivorian air force - which triggered a wave of anti-French demonstrations.

A French journalist, Jean Helene, was killed in 2003.

However the BBC's James Copnall in Abidjan says the unstable political situation has also led to a rise in armed crime in the city.

Bad blood

France retained strong ties with its former colony - long regarded as a haven of stability in West Africa - for decades after independence in 1960.

But relations between Paris and the government of President Laurent Gbagbo became tense after the September 2002 coup attempt by northern rebels - known as the New Forces.

The president's supporters have accused Paris of supporting the insurgents.

There are more than 10,000 French and UN troops in Ivory Coast - most patrolling the ceasefire line between the northern and southern parts of the country.

But plans announced last October to disarm militias and carry out a population census to prepare for elections have failed to get off the ground.


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