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Ivory Coast Revolt Traps Western Kids in School

September 23, 2002|From Times Wire Services

BOUAKE, Ivory Coast — More than 100 American and other foreign children were trapped in this rebel-held central city Sunday as government forces tried to retake northern areas seized by renegade soldiers last week.

The children, ranging from infants to 12-year-olds, attend a boarding school in the city. They are the sons and daughters of missionaries working across West Africa.

"There has been artillery and mortar fire close to the school, coming from a military camp," Michel Cousineau, business manager and security officer at the International Christian Academy, said by phone.

A battle had been looming in the Bouake area, 220 miles north of the commercial capital, Abidjan, since a coup attempt failed Thursday and former soldiers seized the city. Thousands of angry civilians in Bouake marched Sunday in support of coup forces.

"We are armed to the teeth, and there is no going back," a rebel commander known as Samsara 110 declared in another rebel-held city, Korhogo, in the predominantly Muslim north.

Ivory Coast's former colonial power, France, has about 500 troops based in Abidjan and flew in two planeloads of reinforcements Sunday, saying the move was a precaution to ensure the security of its citizens and other Westerners. Ivory Coast said it had not asked for French help to put down the uprising.

The U.S. urged Americans not to travel to Ivory Coast.

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