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Rocket Attack Targets Ivory Coast PM's Plane

29 June 2007

An airplane carrying the Ivory Coast's prime minister, Guillaume Soro, came under fire by unknown assailants Friday, leaving several dead according to early reports. Sources close to the prime minister, say Mr. Soro, a former rebel leader who now heads a coalition government, was not injured in the attack. Kari Barber has more from our West Africa bureau in Dakar.

From the New Forces rebel headquarters, Kama Gate confirmed that the plane carrying Mr. Soro was fired on when it landed in the central city of Bouake, a stronghold of the rebel movement.

Gate says the rebel group has no indication of who is responsible for the attack.

Journalist Siratigui Konate works for Mr. Soro's cabinet and was on the plane when the attack occurred.

"Just when the plane landed in Bouake, at maybe 10:30 or 10:40, we heard two explosions inside the plane and according to the people who were on the outside, they said it was some kind of short range rocket, or RPG," he said.

Konate says he saw three people dead.

Sources close to the prime minister say shots continued to be heard as the convoy traveled from the airport to the center of town.

Konate says several injured members of the convoy were taken to a French-run hospital in the area. He says Mr. Soro is unharmed and safe.

"Right now I can see him in his office, he is going upstairs to his office now," he noted.

Konate says shooting has stopped, but everyone is on alert.

"For the time being the situation is calm, but we do not know what exactly what will happen," he added. "The are a lot of soldiers inside the headquarters of the rebels."

Mr. Soro had traveled to Bouake from the capital Abidjan to preside over a ceremony restoring a judicial system to the rebel-held area.

Tensions have reportedly escalated in recent weeks as many rebels have expressed discontent with Mr. Soro's cooperation with his former opponent, President Laurent Gbagbo. Mr. Soro was named prime minister of Mr. Gbagbo's government as part of a peace deal earlier this year.

President Gbagbo is expected in Bouake on July 5 for a ceremony to celebrate disarmament and reconciliation.

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