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SLUG: 2-320223 Ivory Coast/Attacks (L)
TITLE=IVORY COAST / ATTACKS (L-O)
HEADLINE: French Troops in Ivory Coast Retaliate Against Army After Attack
INTRO: French forces say they have destroyed two Ivory Coast army planes, after the Ivorian military intensified air raids in rebel territory Saturday, including a deadly attack on French peacekeepers. The French Defense Ministry said at least eight soldiers were killed and more than 20 injured. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from Abidjan.
TEXT: During one of at least five raids Saturday afternoon, Ivorian military Sukhoi warplanes bombed a French peacekeepers' base in the northern rebel stronghold of Bouake.
A spokesman for the French forces in Abidjan, Henri Aussavy, says the casualty toll could go higher.
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He says the situation is very serious. Shortly after, he says, French troops destroyed the two planes, after they landed in the administrative capital, Yamoussoukro.
The two Sukhoi warplanes, which have been carrying out raids in rebel areas since Thursday, in violation of a cease-fire, are believed to be the only ones of this type operated by the Ivorian army. U.N. officials say more than 20 people have been killed in the raids, mostly civilians.
An Ivorian army official told VOA, the Ivorian defense forces have convened a crisis meeting to discuss the situation. Military officials also said some of their soldiers had infiltrated areas near Bouake, but this could not be confirmed.
There were also reports of rebel fighters and army soldiers crossing front lines in an area near the western city of Danane.
Meanwhile, in the southern commercial capital, Abidjan, dozens of supporters of President Laurent Gbagbo immediately took to the streets, protesting against the French retaliation, looking to attack cars carrying French citizens.
Ten-thousand French and United Nations peacekeepers are deployed throughout Ivory Coast, trying to prevent hostilities from erupting into renewed civil war. Fighting in the former French colony had stopped last year, but the warring sides have failed to implement a series of peace deals.
The Ivory Coast military says it resumed attacks, because rebels refused to disarm as agreed to in the latest accord by a deadline of October 15th.
Rebels are refusing to do so, accusing President Gbagbo of blocking implementation of key political reforms included since the first accord of January 2003. (SIGNED)
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