Troops 'fired in self-defence' in Ivory Coast

1st December 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Dec 1 (AFP) - French peacekeepers who shot and killed around 20 people during anti-French violence in Ivory Coast early last month were acting out of self-defence, the defence ministry in Paris said Wednesday.

PARIS, Dec 1 (AFP) - French peacekeepers who shot and killed around 20 people during anti-French violence in Ivory Coast early last month were acting out of self-defence, the defence ministry in Paris said Wednesday.

The soldiers "reacted within the rules, that is to say with warning shots, shots of dissuasion, and in any case they acted in totally legitimate defence," Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie told journalists.

She said she deplored that there had been "dead and wounded" during the clashes between November 6 and 9, but added the number of casualties on the French side showed they were targeted by "Ivorian solders, meaning groups of 'Young Patriots' or others armed with Kalashnikovs, shotguns and pistols."

Officials at the French defence ministry said Tuesday that "around 20" Ivorians were killed and an unknown number were wounded during the unrest.

One source in the ministry said around 80 French soldiers were injured in the clashes and had to be repatriated.

Ivory Coast officials have given a different toll, saying 57 Ivorian civilians were killed and more than 2,200 wounded.

Hard-line backers of Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo, including the firebrand Young Patriot movement, 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.

The country's police chief, Colonel Georges Guiai Bi Poin, gave a damning account of clashes outside an Abidjan hotel used as a shelter for expatriates where French forces were regularly pitted against protesters.

"French troops fired directly into the crowd. They opened fire on the orders of their chief Colonel D'Estremon. Without warning," he said.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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