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SLUG: 2-320225 Ivory Coast/Attack (L-Upd)








HEADLINE: Ivory Coast Military Fire On French Troops

INTRO: The Ivory Coast military has fired on French troops in the commercial capital, Abidjan, after French forces destroyed two Ivorian military planes. The Ivorian military has been carrying out raids in the rebel-held north, violating a cease-fire, and one of the attacks Saturday killed at least eight French peacekeepers and one American citizen. In New York, the U.N. Security Council is convening an emergency meeting on the situation. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from Abidjan.

TEXT: French officials say their forces fired back at Ivorian soldiers, after being attacked at one of their bases near the Abidjan airport. The country's main airport was then closed down, leaving about 100 people stranded inside.

This followed France's destruction of two Ivorian military Sukhoi planes earlier in the day, after a raid by the planes killed French peacekeepers and an American in the rebel stronghold of Bouake.

France flew three Mirage jets to nearby Gabon as a precautionary measure. French authorities also prepared to send two more troop companies to protect French citizens in its former colony, where they became targets of angry mobs.

The French government said it was Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo's responsibility to restore order.

In the commercial capital, Abidjan, supporters of Mr. Gbagbo Saturday burned a French high school and a French police base. They also went from house to house in several affluent neighborhoods, looking to burn houses belonging to white foreigners.

In the administrative capital, Yamoussoukro, pro-Gbagbo youths also attacked French interests.

But one of the leaders of these groups, known collectively as the Young Patriots, Toure Moussa Zeguen, urged his followers to attack French soldiers, rather than citizens.

/// ZEGUEN ACT ///

"All Ivorian patriots are called to go on the front, and fight to help our military to free our country. I can't tell you in details who will win, what is happening exactly, but we are fighting the French military against our military."

/// END ACT ///

The two Ivorian military planes that are now destroyed had been carrying out raids since Thursday, seeking to disarm rebels, who have been in control of northern Ivory Coast since September 2002. The Ivorian military said the air raid on the French base was a mistake.

Saturday, there were also reports of clashes between the military and rebels, and troop movements across front lines near the western city of Danane.

The rebels have refused to disarm, accusing President Gbagbo of blocking implementation of key political reforms included in repeated peace deals since January 2003.

More than 10-thousand French and United Nations peacekeepers are on the ground, trying to prevent the renewed start of all-out civil war. (SIGNED)


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