Ivory Coast: November 29, 2002

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Ivory Coast rebels drove a 150-man government garrison out of Man, a city of 135,000 people about 310 miles in the heart of cocoa plantation area northwest of the commercial capital of Abidjan. An Ivorian officer said that the attackers had cut off water and electricity in the town. The attackers (some dressed in civilian clothing) had overrun the city's streets in all-terrain vehicles, shooting in all directions. Farther west, rebels also took the town of Danane (near the Liberian border, 600 km west of Adibjan). Heavy artillery, mortar and sustained ground fire could be throughout the 28th , while hundreds of Ivorian and Liberian refugees had crossed to temporary safety in Liberia. The government immediately dispatched reinforcements from the capital, Yamoussoukro, although the route to Man requires a seven-hour drive. 

One odd twist to this offensive is that the main rebel group (the Patriotic Movement of Cote d'Ivoire or MPCI) has denied involvement in the western fighting. The MPCI is based in the country's north and center. The Ivorian Popular Movement (MPI, also known as the "Patriotic Movement for the Greater West") claimed that they had attacked Danane. The MPI is close to the late former military leader General Robert Guei. A third, previously unknown group - the Movement for Justice and Peace - also appears to be operating in the west. 

Meanwhile, in Abidjan's main administrative "Le Plateau" district, a heavier military presence was reported. Groups of men in civilian clothes could be seen filling sandbags around the Presidential Palace under the supervision of uniformed troops.

French peacekeepers reported a lull in the fighting later on the 29th, indicative that both sides were probably low on ammunition. The French Foriegn Minister also managed to convince Burkina Faso's President to meet his Ivorian counterpart Laurent Gbagbo to resolve their differences.



 

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