France admits killing Ivorians in clashes

30th November 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Nov 30 (AFP) - French troops killed "around 20" Ivorians and injured a "number that is impossible to establish" during unrest in Ivory Coast early this month, the French defence ministry said Tuesday.

PARIS, Nov 30 (AFP) - French troops killed "around 20" Ivorians and injured a "number that is impossible to establish" during unrest in Ivory Coast early this month, the French defence ministry said Tuesday.

Around 80 French soldiers were injured in the clashes and had to be repatriated, a source at the ministry, who asked not to be named, said.

Most of the fatalities came in clashes near Douekoue, in the west, where a convoy of vehicles was blocked as it tried to make its way to Abidjan, the seat of the unrest which was sparked by the bombardment by the Ivorian air force of a camp housing French peacekeepers in the rebel-held city of Bouake.

Eight or nine Ivorians were killed there, with another six killed in clashes near Abidjan's international airport, taken over by French troops when the violence erupted.

Hard-line backers of President Laurent Gbagbo ran riot in Abidjan and other government-held towns and cities early this month after the French retaliated for the attack on the Bouake camp, in which nine French peacekeepers and a US aid worker died.

The unrest targeted mainly French expatriates, but also other foreigners and dual nationals, thousands of whom have since been evacuated from Ivory Coast.

One person was killed at the major Akwaba Junction linking the airport to Abidjan on the night of November 6, while one more died outside the Hotel Ivoire in the southern city, said the defence ministry source.

Ivorian police chief Colonel Georges Guiai Bi Poin has given a damning account of clashes outside the Hotel Ivoire, that reportedly pitted French forces against protesters.

Guiai Bi Poin has said he was in charge of about 60 Ivorian gendarmes outside Abidjan's Hotel Ivoire to prevent demonstrators from storming the building.

He told AFP: "French troops fired directly into the crowd. They opened fire on the orders of their chief Colonel D'Estremon. Without warning."

Guiai Bi Poin he said he was at the French colonel's side in the hotel lobby throughout the night.

Ivorian authorities said a total of 57 civilians were killed and more than 2,200 injured between November 6 and 10, including an unconfirmed number by French troops - but there is no specific toll for the Hotel Ivoire protest.

The death toll was provisional, not definitive, the defence ministry source added.

In every case, the French soldiers were acting in legitimate self-defence or to defend themselves and others, the source said.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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