Ivory Coast: November 12, 2002


Bulgarian mercenaries have apparently joined contract soldiers from France and South African in Ivory Coast, to help the government deal with the rebels. Earlier on 11 November, between 50 and 60 foreign mercenary instructors and helicopter pilots were seen helping the Ivory Coast's regular army use recently acquired Russian-made weapons and vehicles (including heavy machine guns and armored personnel carriers). However, Bulgarian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lyubomir Todorov quickly told the press that his government had no knowledge of any mercenaries. 

Local sources reportedly said that primarily Bulgarian crews were helping the army fly three Mi-24 Hinds and two Mi-17 transports. Civilians first reported pilots practicing aboard two MI-24 combat helicopters off the Grand Bassam seaside resort (25 miles from Abidjan) . These helicopters arrived in Cote d'Ivoire in late October. 

However, Ivorian sources became indignant at any suggestion that the mercenaries were anything other than trainers or that they might fight alongside Ivorian soldiers. 
Meanwhile, the rebels claim to have fixed two Alpha jets, but no one has seen them in the air. - Adam Geibel


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