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US Special Forces on Stand-by in Ivory Coast - 2002-09-25


The U.S. military says American troops sent to Ivory Coast to rescue Americans will remain there in case the situation deteriorates and civilians need to be evacuated. At this point though, none of the estimated 2,000 or so Americans in the West African country are reported to be in danger following last week's failed coup attempt by disgruntled soldiers.

In the end, it was French troops, not American forces, that rescued about 200 students Wednesday, most of them Americans, along with faculty from a Christian school in the town of Bouake.

American forces had been dispatched from Europe to help in the mission but French forces based in Ivory Coast arrived on the scene first.

Still, U.S. Special Forces, along with C-130 cargo planes flown in from neighboring Ghana, are now standing by, ready to evacuate Americans if the situation deteriorates further. Master Sergeant John Tomassi, a spokesman for the U.S. European Command based in Stuggart, Germany, explained, "The forces are there for the safety and security of the American citizens in the country. So whenever they are asked to execute a mission they will do that. If and when the forces that are on the ground there are asked to evacuate the Americans, where they go I can not say that either because the destination could change at any time."

U.S. Special Forces in Ivory Coast number less than 200. They could be given new orders if fighting between rebel soldiers involved in last week's failed coup attempt and forces loyal to the government escalates.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said, "They will do what they need to do and go where they need to go to help ensure the safety of Americans and other foreigners in the country."

It's been a week since about 800 soldiers in Ivory Coast, angry about being dismissed from the military, staged an uprising. Although the government of President Laurent Gbagbo has been unable to restore order to the towns of Bouake and Korhogo, there have been no attacks on Westerners.

But immigrants from neighboring Burkina Faso have been targeted, especially after the Ivory Coast government accused an unnamed Muslim neighbor, widely believed to be Burkina Faso, of having a hand in the coup attempt.

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