Monday, November 29, 2004
French troops fired on Ivorian crowds, Paris says. (Via LGF)
PARIS, Nov 29 (al-Reuters) - French soldiers opened fire on crowds of angry youths during days of mob violence and looting in Ivory Coast earlier this month, French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said.
French forces had previously said they fired warning shots during the unrest, but Alliot-Marie told France's RTL television on Sunday night the troops had most probably "made full use of their weapons" in some cases.
The mob violence erupted after government forces killed nine French soldiers and an American aid worker in a bombing raid on the rebel-held north, prompting the former colonial power to destroy most of Ivory Coast's small air force in retaliation.
The Ivorian government has repeatedly accused French forces of firing on crowds of unarmed demonstrators, particularly at the Hotel Ivoire in the main city, Abidjan. Paris has insisted the protesters were often armed with guns and machetes.
Alliot-Marie said the French troops sometimes had no choice but to open fire, particularly when they were returning from other parts of the country to protect French and other foreign nationals from attack in Abidjan.
"When they tried to stop our armoured vehicles from getting to Abidjan, to stop them from protecting our citizens and other foreigners who were victims of the violence, they had to fire," she said.
"Naturally, they fired warning shots and in some cases, most probably, they had to make full use of their firearms. That is the reality. There was nothing else that could be done."