French EU diplomat shot dead in Ivory Coast

7th February 2007, Comments 0 comments

ABIDJAN, Feb 7, 2007 (AFP) - A French diplomat representing the European Union has been shot dead at his home in the Ivory Coast, an EU official said Wednesday.

ABIDJAN, Feb 7, 2007 (AFP) - A French diplomat representing the European Union has been shot dead at his home in the Ivory Coast, an EU official said Wednesday.

 "We confirm that our colleague was killed last night at his home in Abidjan," said EU mission spokesman Lucien Houedanou.

Diplomatic sources said Michel Niaucel, 53, died of bullet wounds in circumstances which were unclear.

They said Niaucel was responsible for security for the EU mission in Abidjan, the economic capital of the west African state.

The diplomat's wife and 13-year-old daughter were said to be at the home in Plateau, Abidjan's commercial district, at the time.

One source said Niaucel was killed with his own gun and there was no sign of forced entry, however suicide had been ruled out.

Several diplomats said the the killing did not appear to be either politically motivated or ordinary crime.

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy described the death as an "assassination" but this has not been confirmed.

"An investigation has been opened. I want there to be full light shed on this horrible assassination," he said in Paris.

*sidebar1*The foreign minister offered condolences to the family of Niaucel and said French authorities were in contact with their EU and Ivorian counterparts.

Political violence against Western diplomats has been rare in recent months in this politically-volatile former French colony, which is divided into a rebel-held north and a government-ruled south.

Foreigners were targetted in November 2004 when some 8,000 French expatriates had to be evacuated following anti-French demonstrations by militant youths loyal to President Laurent Gbagbo.

There are an estimated 3,000 French civilian nationals still living in Abidjan, compared to about 50,000 in the 1980s.

Relations between Paris and Abidjan dived following a failed coup in 2002 by New-Forces rebels.

Gbagbo's supporters accused France of supporting the rebellion and have demanded that thousands of French forces aiding the UN peacekeeping force in Ivory Coast quit the country.

More than 8,000 UN "blue helmets" are deployed in the Ivory Coast alongside 4,000 French soldiers overseeing a ceasefire between rebels and government forces.

The UN Security Council is due to meet next week to decide whether to extend its peacekeeping operations in the country.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news, Ivory Coast

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