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French Troops Engage in Bloody Battle in Ivory Coast

January 07, 2003|From Times Wire Services

SAN PEDRO, Ivory Coast — French troops fought their bloodiest engagement so far in Ivory Coast on Monday, a battle they said left 30 rebels dead and nine French soldiers wounded near the strategic western town of Duekoue.

The clash dampened hopes for peace and came just days after northern rebels and the government agreed to obey a cease-fire and hold talks in Paris next week.

A rebel leader, whose group is not part of the agreement brokered by France over the weekend, said he attacked the French in retaliation for a bombardment by Ivorian government forces.

"I have ordered my men to attack everywhere and to head for Abidjan," the nation's main city, rebel Sgt. Felix Doh said by satellite telephone.

A spokesman for French forces said the rebels attacked French defensive positions at a key junction in the country's vital cocoa-growing area. At least one soldier was seriously hurt.

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