Anti-French rioters take to Abidjan streets

10th November 2004, Comments 0 comments

ABIDJAN, Nov 10 (AFP) - Thousands of protesters flush with anti-French hatred filled the streets of the main Ivory Coast city Abidjan on Wednesday, spoiling for a fight to defend President Laurent Gbagbo.

ABIDJAN, Nov 10 (AFP) - Thousands of protesters flush with anti-French hatred filled the streets of the main Ivory Coast city Abidjan on Wednesday, spoiling for a fight to defend President Laurent Gbagbo.

Egged on by national radio, which interrupted "hate" messages with snippets of Ivorian reggae star Alpha Blondy's anthem against the French military, they streamed through the downtown Plateau business district to "protect" the radio station.

Thousands more headed for the upmarket Cocody district, which has been ransacked by four days of looting and vandalism that sent French schools up in smoke and left long-time European residents of the west African former French colony beaten and stripped of all they owned.

Hospital sources said at least seven people were killed in a confrontation Tuesday between French troops and the so-called "patriots" outside the luxury Hotel Ivoire in Cocody, just a kilometre from the presidential residence and where French tanks had taken up positions late Sunday.

Their presence around the hotel, which was stripped of its once-grand but now shabby furnishings on Tuesday, sparked a rumour - fed by state radio - that France was preparing a coup bid against Gbagbo, which French military chief General Henri Poncet moved swiftly to deny.

A senior adviser to Gbagbo told Europe 1 radio that 10 people had died in what he called a French "massacre" of Ivorian citizens.

French Defence Minister Michelle Alliot-Marie insisted that the victims had been caught in the crossfire between the patriots, many of whom were armed, and the Ivorian military that had moved in to defuse tensions between the French troops and the crowd.

Life in Abidjan, once one of Africa's most modern and sophisticated cities but now a battered symbol of the two years of conflict that has split Ivory Coast into two, was slowly returning to normal despite the unease and presence of French and Ivorian tanks in the streets.

Markets and shops around the economic capital were open and buses and shared taxis plied their regular routes, careful to avoid the mounting piles of garbage that have not been collected in days.

The latest chapter in Ivory Coast's turmoil opened Thursday with a series of government air raids on key positions in the rebel-held north, one of which hit a French military camp in the second city Bouake killing nine French troops and a US civilian.

France responded by wiping out virtually the entire Ivorian air force and seizing control of the airport, which sparked a frenzy of violence in Abidjan that has left at least 600 people injured, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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