Ivory Coast: December 3, 2002


Renewed fighting in the civil war in the Ivory Coast could develop into a South African "battlefield", with mercenaries from that country fighting on both sides. Fighting troops loyal to President Laurent Gbagbo last month admitted that South African, French and Bulgarian soldiers are helping to train soldiers. The Liberians are reportedly providing air support and (with the help of an unknown number of South African mercenaries) lending expertise and training to the rebels. 

The Ivory Coast government recruited 48 South Africa mercenaries last month, who are allegedly former members of the special forces, 32 Battalion, the Selous Scouts and ex-Zimbabwean soldiers. If accurate, some of these soldiers must be getting long-in-the-tooth. The contract soldiers will earn between $6 000 and $10 000 a month, on three-month renewable contracts. 

An Ivorian military convoy of at least 60 vehicles that moved into Man on the 1st was supported by these mercenaries. A government Mi-24 helicopter, with some South Africans on board, crashed on that afternoon during a fight with rebel forces. It is not clear if the chopper was shot down, or what happened to the occupants. 

Residents who had fled Man to safety said that government troops bombarded Man throughout the night. While Loyalists claimed to have begun mopping-up operations in Man on the 2nd, other witnesses saw both rebel and government troops in the town during the day. - Adam Geibel


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