Ivory Coast: April 10, 2003


The MPCI rebels claimed that the government would use Mi-24 gunships stationed at Bondoukou and mercenary pilots to attack their units at Bouna on the 11th. They also claimed that government ground units would attack MPIGO positions at Danane, Bin-Houye, and Zouan-Hounien. Government units had been put on full alert the day before.

On 2 April, the UK-based Private Military Company Northbridge Services (www.northbridgeservices.com) was accused by Foreign Secretary Jack Straw of recruiting British, South African, French and other ex-servicemen to serve in Ivorian government units. Northbridge rebutted that it offers a wide range of services for "legitimate governments", multinationals and aid groups. Northbridge pointed out that Mr Straw's comments came "as a great surprise when it was he that strongly supported the use of private military companies in a office Foreign and Commonwealth Office". Apparently, some contracts are more equal than others. 

During the first week of April, diplomats in Ivory Coast's main city Abidjan heard rumors that more than 300 fresh mercenaries were to be hired and arrive in April. 
White men with Slavic-sounding or South African accents have been seen at the best hotels, long after President Gbagbo's January 2003 promise to send mercenaries home. On March 31, the Ivorian opposition Le Patriote newspaper claimed that the state had hired 1,000 South Africans skilled in urban warfare through several South African companies. A spokesman for Gbagbo denied the paper's allegations. - Adam Geibel


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