French continue fleeing Ivory Coast

France has evacuated more citizens from the Ivory Coast amid unconfirmed reports that several women were raped during violent anti-French protests.

    Anti-French protests sparked violence in Ivory Coast

    About 800 French nationals and other foreigners flew out on Thursday on two planes even as opposition leaders from the Ivory Coast gathered in South Africa for talks aimed at rebuilding peace initiatives.

    A French military spokesman said some victims of the violence, which raged from Saturday until Tuesday, had been raped.

    "We'll never look at this place the same way again. There will always be that scar," said Frenchman Stephane Mira, leaving the main city Abidjan with his family.

    Street violence

    Supporters of President Laurent Gbagbo began looting and burning foreigners' homes and companies in Abidjan after Paris wiped out the country's air force in retaliation for an Ivorian air strike that killed nine French peacekeepers.

    The Ivory Coast air strike was part of an offensive on rebel-held territory that shattered an 18-month ceasefire.

    Street violence in Abidjan has
    raged for four days

    Abidjan, however, has begun to return to normality after days of tumult. Some shops have reopened and orange taxis were back on the streets.

    France, which has deployed troops in Abidjan and taken control of the airport, flew out some 800 French and other foreign nationals in a first wave of evacuations on Wednesday.

    An Ivorian medical official said 54 people had been shot dead by French troops around the country during the violence and 1226 had been injured.

    South African President Taboo Mbeki met Gbagbo in Abidjan on Tuesday and opposition leaders on Thursday in Pretoria.

    A key demand of Gbagbo's opponents is a change to the constitution to let opposition leader Alas sane Tuatara stand in a presidential election due next year.

    Gbagbo has insisted any change would have to go to a referendum after rebels disarm.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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