- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 21, 2002

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast Rebel soldiers dug in yesterday at two Ivory Coast cities, reinforcing positions with heavy weapons and handing out uniforms and guns to recruits, just one day after the government said it had crushed a bloody coup attempt.
An Ivorian military source said the failed coup left 270 persons dead and 300 injured in Abidjan. Earlier in the day, undertakers picked corpses off the streets of the Ivorian economic capital.
President Laurent Gbagbo cut short his state visit to Rome and returned to the heavy task of bringing security to the country after the deadliest military uprising in three years of unrest in the once-stable country.
In a speech broadcast on state television, Mr. Gbagbo said the army had neutralized the insurgents in Abidjan and would flush out the remaining rebels in the city, then move toward the two cities to the north still held by the rebels.
Government officials said foreigners including Liberians, Malians, and Burkina Faso nationals were among the rebels.
Fearing he would be blamed for the uprising, opposition leader Alassane Ouattara sought refuge at the German Embassy and later the French Embassy.
In Abidjan, security troops moved brutally at times to assert control.
Paramilitary police burned down dozens of houses around the paramilitary base in Abidjan that was the target of the first attack, saying they needed to secure the area.
Most of the homes were those of workers from neighboring Muslim countries. The foreigners are frequent targets of suspicion and attacks in Ivory Coast's predominantly Christian south.
The bullet-riddled bodies of two rebels lay before the base, heaped in front of a destroyed tank.
"This is not just a simple show of anger of a few soldiers. It's an attempted coup," Mr. Gbagbo said.
"We will face up to this battle that terrorists and men of evil have brought to us, but we have lost men," he said, listing Interior Minister Emile Boga Doudou and senior officers among the dead.
In the evening, shots were heard around the city's main paramilitary police base, which was the target of an attack on Thursday. It was not immediately clear who was doing the shooting, and it died down after paramilitary police went on patrol in two armored vehicles.
Despite promising to flush out the insurgents, Mr. Gbagbo held out the possibility of talks. "Anyone who wants to come toward me with an olive branch, I will kiss. But if someone comes to me with a sword, I will take out a sword and we will fight," he said.
The rebels likewise expressed willingness to talk, but both sides prepared for a showdown over the two cities, Bouake and Korhogo, still under control of insurgents.
The dead on the loyalist side included Mr. Doudou shot more than 30 times at his house and a number of senior military officers. Paramilitary police reported scores among them also died.
The toll among the insurgents remained unknown. But paramilitary officers revealed yesterday they had killed not only the deposed junta chief, Gen. Robert Guei, accused of taking part in the coup attempt, but also his wife, son and grandchildren.


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