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French forces sheltering 1,400 foreigners in Ivory Coast

2nd April 2011, Comments0 comments


About 1,400 foreigners, a third of them French, took shelter Saturday at a French military camp in Ivory Coast's main city as heavy fighting raged between forces backing rival presidents, a spokesman said.

"There are about 1,400 of them there, a third of whom are French," Colonel Thierry Burkhard said, speaking of the camp at Port Bouet, located en route to the airport of the seaside city, Ivory Coast's commercial capital.

He said there were no immediate plans for the French army to evacuate foreigners.

The French military presence in its former star colony dates back to an agreement between Paris and the country's founder, Felix Houphoet-Boigny, but there is additionally a French military mission deployed after a failed 2002 uprising against strongman Laurent Gbagbo.

French troops patrolled Abidjan overnight with around 350 soldiers deployed, he added.

Four months after a disputed election, with Gbagbo clinging to power despite an international consensus that he lost, internationally recognised president Alassane Ouattara's army launched a lightning offensive across the country before besieging Abidjan.

As heavy fighting shook the city of five million, world leaders urged Gbagbo to step down immediately. But Gbagbo who has hung on to power for 10 years without being re-elected has shown no sign of relenting despite an economic blockade.


© 2011 AFP

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