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Ivory Coast Army Puts Capital on High Alert, Warns of Attack

March 21, 2004|From Reuters

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast — Helicopter gunships circled over Ivory Coast's main city, Abidjan, on Saturday as the army put the city center on maximum alert and warned opponents it would not tolerate a planned march against President Laurent Gbagbo.

An army spokesman accused rebels holding the northern half of the West African country, the world's top cocoa producer, of preparing an "imminent attack" on Abidjan in the south. Witnesses said two helicopter gunships flew over the city Saturday.

"An attack on Abidjan is imminent and also with the march on the 25th we don't want to take any risks," said army spokesman Lt. Col. N'Goran Aka.

An alliance of groups opposed to Gbagbo, including the rebels, said last week it would defy an official ban on protests and demonstrate against him Thursday.

Gbagbo's opponents accuse him of failing to implement a pact to bring a permanent end to the civil war, which grew out of a failed coup attempt in September 2002.

The security measures were the latest in a series of signs of rising tension in the country, where a major United Nations peacekeeping mission is due to begin work on April 4.

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