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Ivory Coast, French Troops Battle In Abidjan


French forces battled late Saturday against the Ivory Coast military in Abidjan, while tens of thousands of people rampaged in the streets of the commercial capital. France decided to retaliate after a bombing raid by the Ivorian military in the rebel-held north on Saturday killed nine French soldiers and one American aid worker.

Ivorian military forces fired at French helicopters flying over the city's main bridges late Saturday.

The helicopters were firing red tracer bullets to disperse crowds trying to converge on the presidential residence and the airport.

Elsewhere, there was also fighting for control of the main airport in Abidjan. Several French soldiers were being treated for injuries there, while about 100 passengers were left stranded inside the airport.

There was also looting going on, as protesters smashed down one of many French-owned businesses in the city.

At a nearby church, protesters gathered praying for Ivory Coast to be saved.

One supporter of President Laurent Gbagbo said the real rebels were now the French forces. He said Ivorians are fighting again for independence from colonialism.

Earlier, French troops in the administrative capital Yamoussoukro destroyed two fighter jets, three helicopter gunships and a main weapons cache of the Ivorian army. French officials said this was retaliation for the deadly bombing raid by the Ivorian military against the French base earlier Saturday.

A spokesman for Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo appeared on national television Saturday saying war had resumed since Thursday because northern-based rebels have refused to disarm despite agreeing to do so in the latest peace deal signed in July.

Rebels have accused Mr. Gbagbo of failing to implement the peace deal. They said they were pushing back Ivorian army forces which had advanced across front lines near the western city of Danane.

The U.N Security Council has demanded an end to all military action in Ivory Coast and said U.N. peacekeepers and French forces are authorized to use all necessary means.

More than 10,000 peacekeepers are in Ivory Coast to help the country become reunited. It has been divided in two since September 2002.

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