- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 24, 2002

From combined dispatches
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast Heavy gunfire sounded briefly in Ivory Coast's rebel-held second city yesterday, as French troops moved in and stood ready to evacuate foreigners if needed including about 100 American children caught in the middle of a bloody military uprising.
Rebel soldiers said they had beaten off a heavy attack on the city of Bouake by loyalist troops sent to crush an uprising that has plunged the West African country into its worst crisis since independence from France in 1960.
The U.S.-based director of a boarding school housing the young Americans, children of missionaries from across Africa, said rebels breached the walls of the school and fired across the campus.
"It really was cross fire. Not shooting at the children, but a whole lot of ammo going and scaring the children to death," said James Forlines, director of Free Will Baptist Missions, who spoke from Nashville, Tenn., where he was in hourly contact with the school. None of the children was hurt.
Ranging from infants to 12-year-olds, the young Americans are among 200 foreigners holed up at a boarding school for children of missionaries in Bouake, a besieged city that has been in rebel hands since a coup attempt four days ago. The uprising killed at least 270 persons and wounded another 300 in its first days.
French troops with trucks and helicopters set up camp yesterday at an airport outside Yamoussoukro, just 40 miles from Bouake.
Gunfire sputtered through the morning in the market center of more than half a million people.
"We captured a truck when they came to attack us in the night," said a rebel spokesman. "We do not want to shoot our brothers in arms, but we are ready to defend ourselves."
France reinforced its 500-strong garrison on Sunday, flying in more troops to protect 20,000 French citizens.
Rebel soldiers on Sunday called for talks with President Laurent Gbagbo's government to avoid further bloodshed, while loyalist troops encircled Bouake, 220 miles from Abidjan, before their attack.
"We will do everything to protect foreigners in the areas under our control and all we can to help the French to evacuate them if that is their plan," the rebel spokesman said. "The government does not appear to want talks."
The rebels say they are protesting plans to throw them out of the army. The government accuses them of wanting to seize power in a coup plotted by former junta leader Robert Guei, who was killed by loyalist forces in Abidjan on Thursday.
State television has said the violence has left swathes of the world's biggest cocoa producer in rebel hands.
A 1999 coup destroyed Ivory Coast's stable reputation in a troubled region, and hundreds died amid turbulent 2000 elections in a country divided by ethnic bitterness.
Witnesses saw rebels handing out guns and promising cash to youths in Bouake on Sunday as they have done in the rebel-controlled northern opposition stronghold, Korhogo.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide