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West Africa Leaders Send Condolences to US - 2001-09-12

West Africans are reacting with shock and horror to Tuesday's terrorist attacks in the United States. A number of countries in the region have issued condolences to the United States government.

People in Abidjan, Ivory Coast's commercial capital, and in other West African cities gathered around radios, listening to nonstop coverage of the events in New York and Washington.

They also heard public condolences issued by heads of state, including Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo, Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, and in central Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo's Joseph Kabila.

The leaders all condemned the violence and expressed solidarity with the United States. Major General Kabila issued a statement calling the attacks an "ignoble act" and said he hopes those responsible will soon be identified and punished.

Across West and Central Africa, the news of the attacks took up the entire front pages of newspapers. In Abidjan, one newspaper had the headline: "Horror in the United States." Another had simply the word "Apocalypse" above the image of the collapsing World Trade Center towers in New York.

On the streets of Abidjan, people expressed sympathy for the United States, for the most part. Anselm Gondo, a 25-year-old student, expresses condolences, but says he believes the United States has a price to pay for being powerful. "I'm sorry. We are sorry. Everybody is sorry," he said. "But we think that it is the consequence, the normal consequence, of the American policy of considering itself a superstate [and] trying to dominate the small countries. You know, not everybody is happy with the politics of the United States, but it should not lead people to the perpetration of such crimes."

In Abidjan's Plateau business district, a 33-year-old insurance agent, like many other people here, said he was surprised and worried. America, the agent says, is far away from here, but, he says, the implication of what has happened in New York and Washington reach the entire world. "The World Trade Center, which symbolizes American economic power, was hit. The Pentagon, the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense, was hit. That means that there is no such thing as 100 percent protection," he says. "That shows how vulnerable Americans are, and how vulnerable the entire world is." The man says he believes the United States is seen as the world's policeman. And, he says, "if it can be hit like that, that means the entire world is vulnerable."

Some people interviewed expressed fear that a possible U.S. retaliation may trigger a larger conflict.