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Police in Abidjan Kill Protester


Witnesses say a man was killed when police in Ivory Coast fired at opposition youths protesting against President Laurent Gbagbo on Tuesday. As Franz Wild reports for VOA from Abidjan, the marches come in the wake of a public power struggle between Mr. Gbagbo and the United Nations-backed prime minister Charles Konan Banny.

Sporadic protests have been held by opposition youths in towns throughout the southern half of Ivory Coast, since President Gbagbo fired the head of state television for airing what he called seditious remarks by the prime minister Banny. Mr. Banny had criticized the president for

reinstating three senior officials accused of gross negligence in the recent toxic waste scandal in which ten died.

On Tuesday, hundreds came out onto the streets of Koumassi, a residential district in Abidjan,Ivory Coast's main city, saying they would not leave until Mr. Gbagbo stepped down.

Witnesses say police fired into the crowd and hit one protestor, 35-year-old Bakary Yao.

Fellow demonstrator Karamoko Ouattara saw Yao receive the wound that led to his death later.

"We were just talking with each other during the protest," Ouattara said. "The policeman shot at us, hitting Yao's leg, with blood going everywhere, but Yao could not run, so another young man came to help him get away."

The hospital received Yao could not be reached to confirm his death.

But blood marks were still visible at a residential yard, where he apparently sought refuge. The women there said they remember a total stranger coming in with a gushing leg.

Police commissioner Audin Djanhoue denies that his force have killed the man. But he confirmed the protests around Abidjan, pointing out the marchers burnt a bus in a neighboring district. Witnesses also confirmed protests in several other towns.

Mr. Gbagbo's wrangling with his Prime Minister Banny burst into the open after a new United Nations resolution, giving both men a final year to organise elections, which intend to reunite Ivory Coast.

Rebels have occupied the north since a 2002 coup attempt led to a brief civil war.

The UN mandate gave Mr. Banny more power so he can overcome the two biggest obstacles to peace, rebel disarmament and voter identification.

But president Gbagbo refused to go along. He says he is fed up with foreign involvement and will launch his own peace scheme. His supporters say nobody can undermine his authority.

But opposition youth leader in Koumassi, Souleymane Konaté, says Mr. Gbagbo is the only obstacle.

He says, Mr. Gbagbo is blocking progress at the moment. Everyone knows that; U.N Secretary General Kofi Annan, and West African countries all know that. He said people are

tired of the situation so they will keep protesting until Mr. Gbagbo leaves.

The Western and West African countries as well as UN representatives have urged president Gbagbo to reconsider his action for the interest of the country. Until now, Mr. Gbagbo has refused to give up his power struggle.

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