Archive for Sunday, November 7, 2004

Mayhem erupts in Ivory Coast

November 7, 2004

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— French troops clashed with soldiers and angry mobs Saturday after Ivory Coast warplanes killed at least nine French peacekeepers and an American civilian in an airstrike -- mayhem that threatened to draw foreign troops deeper into the West African country's escalating civil war.

France hit back, destroying what it said was the entire Ivory Coast air force -- two Russian-made Sukhoi jets used in the bombing and five helicopter gunships. France scrambled three Mirage fighter jets to West Africa and ordered about 300 troops to ready for deployment in Ivory Coast.

Mob violence erupted in Ivory Coast's national commercial capital, Abidjan, upon France's retaliation, sending thousands of angry loyalists armed with machetes, axes and clubs out into the streets in fiery rampages in search of French targets.

"French go home!" loyalist mobs shouted, as thousands set fire to at least two French schools and tried to storm a French military base, seeking out French civilians as French and Ivory Coast forces briefly traded gunfire.

"Everybody get your Frenchman!" young men screamed to each other, swinging machetes.

French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo would be "held personally responsible by the international community for (maintaining) the public order in Abidjan."

The U.N. Security Council, convening in emergency session, demanded an immediate halt to all military action in Ivory Coast and emphasized that U.N. and French forces here were authorized to use "all necessary means" to keep the peace.

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