Mystery 'coup bid' quashed in Ivory Coast

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The Independent Online

Ivory Coast's government claimed to have quashed a new challenge to civilian rule in the West African country yesterday. But the identity of "rebels" who reportedly attempted a coup in the early hours of yesterday remained unclear.

Ivory Coast's government claimed to have quashed a new challenge to civilian rule in the West African country yesterday. But the identity of "rebels" who reportedly attempted a coup in the early hours of yesterday remained unclear.

Emile Boga Doudou, the Interior Minister, announced on state radio: "Rebel elements tried to take the radio, television and the residence of the President. These rebel forces have been routed."

Moise Lida Kouassi, the Defence Minister, said it was too early to identify the putschists. "We're talking about individuals who had put on town clothes, civilian clothes, and who used vehicles snatched here and there from ordinary people," he said. Ministers said 15 people had been arrested in Abidjan, and two paramilitary police had been killed.

Ivory Coast, once considered one of the most stable countries in Africa, has endured a year of political and ethnic tension since an army mutiny in December 1999 developed into a coup.

Last October, at least 200 people died after the military leader, General Robert Guei,refused to accept the result of a presidential election won by the veteran socialist Laurent Gbagbo. Because of a "boulevard revolution" President Gbagbo came to power.

During last month's parliamentary elections, the country's supreme court excluded the party of Alassane Ouattara, a presidential challenger. Constituencies in the Muslim north of the country consequently boycotted the poll.

There have been rumours that General Guei is plotting a comeback. But it is possible that forces loyal to Mr Ouattara or to Henri Konan Bédí, removed from power in December 1999, had a hand in yesterday's trouble. It is also possible that the government stage-managed the rebellion.

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