French prepare to oust Comoro coup leaders mercenaries
Saturday 30 September 1995
Paris - France prepared yesterday for a possible military intervention to oust mercenaries who seized power in the Indian Ocean Comoro islands while sending increasingly stern warnings to the rebels, officials said.
The Defence Ministry put French forces in the Indian Ocean on alert and government sources said preparations were under way for possible action unless Bob Denard, a veteran French soldier of fortune, abandoned his operation.
The Foreign Ministry announced that Paris had cut off vital economic aid to the Comoros and warned the mercenaries that they would be held responsible for the safety of hostages, including President Said Mohamed Djohar.
Officials played down a comment by the French Prime Minister, Alain Juppe, that there was "no question of a military intervention", saying President Jacques Chirac was monitoring the situation closely.
"This would be an obvious low-cost, low-risk opportunity to demonstrate the government's resolution and its commitment to Africa," one diplomatic Africa-watcher said.
Fighting continued yesterday, with the mercenaries meeting fresh resistance. At least seven people, including two white mercenaries, were killed after loyalist forces retook the main Comoros airport from mercenaries. Residents told Reuter by telephone from the Comoros that the other five dead were members of the gendarmerie which mounted a fierce counterattack.
They said the battles were taking place halfway between the airport and Moroni city. The comic opera coup staged by a veteran French "dog of war" and a handful of hired guns recruited in South Africa was a potential embarrassment to Mr Chirac, recalling skulduggery by French agents and mercenary friends in the 1960s and 1970s.
The Foreign Ministry called for the restoration of constitutional order in the former French colony, one of the world's poorest countries, which has experienced 17 coups or coup attempts since it gained independence in 1975. Yves Doutriaux, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said France had a 1978 defence agreement with the Comoros which dealt with "external aggression".
He declined to be drawn on how Paris would respond to an appeal for intervention from the Prime Minister, Caabi Elyachroutu Mohamed, who took refuge in the French embassy in Moroni when the mercenaries landed on Thursday and captured Djohar. However, the embassy allowed him to broadcast calls for intervention on French radio and television.
"France has not promised anything at all. We are waiting," Mr Caabi said, adding that he had requested French intervention "to restore the rule of law and democracy. They cannot leave a country hostage to mercenaries".
France has about 30 military advisers in Moroni. A defence ministry spokesman said it had a 130-man Foreign Legion combat company on Mayotte, a Comoro island which chose to stay French in a 1975 referendum. It has more troops on the island of La Reunion, as well as a helicopter-carrying frigate, a transport ship and two gunboats. The ships could reach the Comoros in 48 hours if Mr Chirac ordered intervention.
- 1 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 2 The confessions of men who ordered mail-order brides
- 3 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
- 5 'Isis' schoolgirls: Missing British teenager tweets picture of her Syrian takeaway
Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
Power of Nepal earthquake was equivalent to 20 huge atomic bombs
Nepal earthquake video: Terrifying footage shows moment avalanche hit Everest Base Camp
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...
£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...
£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...
£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Support Engi...