Rebels fire on school in Ivory Coast

Rebel soldiers have fired direct shots at an international boarding school in Ivory Coast’s second city Bouake, where some 170 foreign schoolchildren have been trapped since an uprising last week, a school administrator said on Wednesday.

Michel Cousineau, who is also in charge of security at the International Christian Academy, said: “We got caught in direct fire for some time yesterday (Tuesday) but nobody was hurt.

“The night passed calmly. There is gunfire. We just sit and we wait to be evacuated,” he said.

Cousineau said there was “no word, no contact,” about the evacuation.

A contingent of around 200 US troops arrived in the west African nation of Ghana early on Wednesday, where they were poised to move in to neighbouring Ivory Coast and evacuate the children and staff trapped at the school in the central Ivorian city of Bouake.

“Currently they are with the US ambassador to help US citizens,” Lieutenant-Colonel Patrick Barnes said.
“They could be moved if need be.”

The majority of the 170 children in the school are from the United States, with around a dozen from Canada and the Netherlands.

The academy was set up in 1962, essentially for the education of the children of missionaries serving in west Africa.

A contingent of French troops is also on standby near Bouake, Ivory Coast’s second largest city and home to around 1 000 foreign nationals, most of them French.

“Our fuel is running very, very low,” Cousineau said.

“We have been running our generating plant ... there has been no electricity for five days.”

According to the administrator “the children are doing fine and their morale is fair ... but they’re disappointed that their studies are affected and they have to leave the region.”

Attacks were launched simultaneously last Thursday in three cities—the coastal city of Abidjan, Bouake, and Korhogo in the north—in Ivory Coast, the world’s largest producer of cocoa.

Initially, the unrest was said to be a mutiny by army soldiers unhappy with their impending demobilisation.

But the government of President Laurent Gbagbo, who was out of the country when the clashes broke, later said they were an attempted coup d’etat.

The uprising was violently quashed in Abidjan on Thursday by government forces, at a cost of some 270 dead and 300 wounded, according to the authorities, but rebel soldiers still controlled Bouake and Korhogo on Wednesday, nearly a week after the abortive coup. - Sapa-AFP

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