Gbagbo claims French troops 'decapitated' protesters

21st November 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Nov 20 (AFP) - Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo said Saturday he believed reports were true that French troops had decapitated local demonstrators during anti-French riots in the west African state this month.

PARIS, Nov 20 (AFP) - Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo said Saturday he believed reports were true that French troops had decapitated local demonstrators during anti-French riots in the west African state this month.

"I wasn't in the hospitals myself but everyone who went there said so: you may take it that the evidence provided by several people is true," he responded online from Abidjan to a website discussion in Paris.

Asked by AFP, French army information services in Paris would say only: "We have no comment to make on this kind of statement."

Cardinal Bernard Agre, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Abidjan, first made the decapitation charge, saying November 11 on Radio Vatican: "I have just come from the hospitals. It's unbearable, these young people decapitated by the French army."

Thousands of Gbagbo supporters looted French property after French troops wiped out most of Ivory Coast's small air force earlier this month in retaliation for an attack by an Ivory Coast government air strike on rebel positions which also killed nine members of a French peacekeeping force.

"If I had been consulted and informed before all the aircraft and military infrastructure of Ivory Coast were bombed things might not have got so out of hand," Gbagbo said in the online forum organised by the Paris magazine Nouvel Observateur.

Asked about alleged rape of French women during the riots, he said: "I'd like to remind you that 4,000 prisoners got out of jail that night. Draw your own conclusions".

The French force has been in Ivory Coast with UN forces to implement a peace accord reached after a failed coup two years ago divided the country. Gbagbo said that during the riots 64 young people had been killed and some 1,300 injured "by the murderous bullets of French soldiers."

"We never had any anti-French or anti-white policy," he told the Paris discussion: "There has been much trouble in Ivory Coast. Many people have been afraid, many have even left Ivory Coast. Many have also returned and we will continue to live together."

Gbagbo said his aim now was to calm matters after the riots so that normal life could resume.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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