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Ivory Coast Loyalist Troops Retake City From Rebels

Army works to eliminate insurgents from Daloa, which had fallen over the weekend.

October 16, 2002|From Associated Press

BOUAFLE, Ivory Coast — The government said loyalist troops were working Tuesday to wipe out remaining resistance after retaking Daloa, a major city in this country's cocoa belt.

Col. Jules Yao Yao, an army spokesman, urged residents of Daloa to report any suspected insurgents to the military. The rebels' capture of the city over the weekend had been a blow to the government and rattled cocoa markets abroad.

"The counteroffensive against Daloa has ended with success," Yao Yao declared on state television. "Our positions are being consolidated as we seek and destroy all pockets of resistance."

Residents in Daloa, a city of 160,000 in the southwest, said the rebels apparently had departed, leaving vehicles -- and at least four bodies -- behind.

Residents said heavy machine-gun fire and explosions shook the city for about two hours during the afternoon and seemed to be coming from the road leading north to Vavoua, 35 miles away. By nightfall, Daloa was quiet again.

The rebels tried to launch a counterattack but failed, said one resident, reached by phone.

Yao Yao said five rebels were killed and four government soldiers were injured. The figures could not be independently verified.

The colonel said rebels also tried to break through government lines east of Bouake, Ivory Coast's second-largest city. Bouake has been in rebel hands since the uprising began Sept. 19.

He said government forces killed five rebels and seized documents, rocket launchers and other weapons in repelling an attack on Mbahiakro, a city 60 miles east of Bouake.

West African mediators were awaiting word from the insurgents on whether they were ready to sign a truce. The rebels have seized much of the northern half of the country.

The insurgency centers on about 800 ex-soldiers, many of them dismissed from the army for suspected disloyalty. Their uprising has gathered support from Ivorians in the north, who complain that the government treats them poorly.

Hundreds have died in the fighting.

The war has prompted tens of thousands of people to flee, creating a tide of refugees that aid workers fear could spill over Ivorian borders, destabilizing other West African countries.

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