French soldiers' group slaps Gbagbo with lawsuit

17th November 2004, Comments 0 comments

LILLE, France, Nov 17 (AFP) - A French soldiers' advocacy group on Wednesday filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo for an air strike November 6 that killed nine French peacekeepers.

LILLE, France, Nov 17 (AFP) - A French soldiers' advocacy group on Wednesday filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo for an air strike November 6 that killed nine French peacekeepers.

Lawyer Eric Dupont-Moretti told AFP that the suit, which was also brought against armed forces chief of staff Colonel Philippe Mangou, aimed to bring charges of "premeditated voluntary homicide" against the Ivorian leader.

Gbagbo has denied that the November 6 strike on the French base in the central town of Bouake was deliberate and has suggested that as he has not seen the bodies that perhaps they do not exist.

French armed forces chief of staff General Henri Bentegeat has said that he did not think Gbagbo gave the order to strafe the French base but said he was "sure it was deliberate," a position shared publicly by senior French officials including Defence Minister Michele Alliot Marie and Foreign Minister Michel Barnier.

Dupont-Moretti said the suit will show that Gbagbo "supervised" the bombardments that were part of what the Ivorian leader has called an operation to "liberate and reunify" the country divided between rebel north and government south since a failed September 2002 coup sparked a civil war.

Mangou, who was appointed Sunday to the top-ranking military position from his post as director of the armed forces' northern operations, gave the order for the two Sukhoi planes to take off, the attorney added.

The two pilots, allegedly Belarus mercenaries, would also be named in the suit brought by the advocacy group, which was founded in the memory of four French military police killed in 1988 in New Caledonia to defend the rights of French troops killed in the line of duty.

The fatal air strike on the French base sparked an aggressive riposte by France's Operation Unicorn that has been in Ivory Coast since October 2002 helping to reconcile its former star colony in west Africa after the civil war, wiping out virtually its entire air force and seizing its airport.

The retaliation triggered a riot of anti-French violence that seeped from the commercial capital Abidjan to the port city of San Pedro, leaving dozens of people wounded and hundreds of homes and businesses destroyed and prompting an exodus of some 4,500 French nationals over the last week.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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