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French Mercenary, Troops Surrender in Comoro Islands

October 06, 1995|Associated Press

MORONI, Comoro Islands — A grizzled, limping soldier of fortune ended his latest power grab in Africa on Thursday by quietly leading his band of white mercenaries into French custody.

The subdued surrender on the Comoro Islands off Africa's eastern coast came after a lightning invasion of French troops ended a short-lived coup by Bob Denard, two dozen mercenaries and about 300 allied Comoran soldiers.

Denard and the hired guns who followed him in his latest African bid for power emerged unarmed from the military barracks that had served as their command center since they deposed the president of the Comoro Islands a week ago.

Some of the mercenaries were overweight, tattooed veterans with gray hair; others were smooth-faced youngsters. Twenty-three were from France, like Denard, and one was Belgian.

Defiant to the end, Denard, 66, refused to call his negotiated agreement with French officials a surrender.

"I don't consider myself a prisoner," he said. "There are no conditions, there is no surrender. . . . Today it's raining, and today the Comorans are crying."

Denard ruled these dirt-poor Indian Ocean islands, a French colony until 1975, through coups and puppet presidents from 1978 to 1989, when France negotiated his departure.

France sent 600 troops ashore Wednesday, forcing Denard to free President Said Mohamed Djohar after six days of captivity. Djohar, in his 80s, was flown to the French island of Reunion and hospitalized for tests.

The surrender Thursday probably ended the career of one of Africa's most notorious soldiers of fortune. Denard has led rebellions in more than half a dozen African and Arab nations.

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