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Ivory Coast Opposition Militants Reported Missing - 2003-10-20


Opposition activists in Ivory Coast say 10 militants have been abducted by security officers in the southern commercial capital, Abidjan. There are fears that a power-sharing peace agreement between the government and northern rebels is collapsing.

One of the militants, who said his name is Bamba, told journalists that security forces stormed an opposition meeting Friday in the Abobo neighborhood of Abidjan.

He says men wearing military uniforms took 10 people, but that he was able to escape. Other militants are looking for the missing at detention centers across Abidjan.

The missing militants are said to be supporters of the RDR political party. The party's leader, Alassane Ouattara, lives in exile in France because he fears for his life in Ivory Coast.

An RDR leader in Abidjan, Adama Dembele, says he has notified authorities about the recent disappearances, but he does not know if that will help.

Mr. Dembele says the abductions remind him of the death squads that operated in Abidjan following the failed rebel coup attempt 13 months ago. One of those killed by an alleged death squad earlier this year was RDR militant and popular comedian Yerefe Kamara, known as H. Mr. Kamara was a Muslim from northern Ivory Coast, as are most rebels and militants of the RDR.

A U.N. human rights report said this year the death squads included members of the presidential guard and activists from President Laurent Gbagbo's Bete southwestern tribal group. Mr. Gbagbo has repeatedly denied links between his government and the so-called death squads.

The new interior minister in the power-sharing government, Martin Bleou, says he is not certain Friday's abductions were carried out by security officers. He says many military uniforms and weapons have been stolen since the start of the rebel uprising.

Last week, a militia group, known as GPP, was banned because its members wore military uniforms and made fake military identity cards.

But since then, GPP members have continued to train throughout the streets of Abidjan, staring down any motorists who block their path. They wear shirts saying "We are Tired," which is what President Gbagbo recently said about rebels refusing to disarm.

Last month, the northern-based rebels suspended their participation in the power-sharing government, saying President Gbagbo is keeping all the power to himself and refusing to apply the French-mediated peace accord signed in January.

They also say they do not feel safe when they go to Abidjan.

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