Ivory Coast: January 7, 2003

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: Another cease-fire in the Ivory Coast evaporated on 6 January, when a rebel splinter faction opposed to the 17 October ceasefire attacked French troops for three hours. A group of about 40 rebels armed with mortars attacked a French position north of Duekoue on the road to the rebel-held city of Man (100 km away). Another group of 30 simultaneously attacked a French outpost northeast of Duekoue on a dirt road to Blodi. The French counterattacked, but the rebels recovered their injured and dead as they retreated. When the smoked cleared at around 14:00, there were 30 dead rebels and nine wounded French soldiers. French sources were initially unsure of which of the three rebel groups the splinter dissidents belonged to, but MPIGO leader SGT Felix Doh claimed responsibility for the attacks. 

MPIGO also took the town of Grabo on the 4th, when government troops fled before them without a fight. A local civilian claimed that this rebel group included "several English speakers" (most likely Liberians) and that looting was widespread. The Liberian fighters are notorious for drug use and extreme violence. The government tried to claim that their troops had been battling Liberian raiders, but had beaten them back. Grabo is 200 km south of Duekoue and less than 100 km from the port city of San Pedro (where 2,200 refugees are taking shelter and a large French expatriate community lives). The UNHCR also reported that 32,800 Liberians and 20,800 Ivorians refugees had been registered at various border posts in Liberia. 

Things were looking so much better for the French on the 4th. They had managed to get the main rebel group, the Ivory Coast Patriotic Movement (MPCI) and the Ivorian government to agree to a handshake ceasefire. The amphibious assault ship Foudre had also left Ghana's Tema Harbor for Abidjan, with that country's peacekeeping contingent on board. - Adam Geibel


 

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