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Ivory Coast President Gbagbo to Continue Rome Visit Despite Coup Attempt - 2002-09-19

Thursday's coup attempt in the Ivory Coast came as the country's president, Laurent Gbagbo, was on a state visit to Rome. An official traveling with the president says the situation is under control.

An aide to President Laurent Gbagbo, speaking in Rome, said loyalist forces were in control of Abidjan, the commercial capital of the Ivory Coast.

The aide, Alain Toussaint, said the country's former military ruler, Robert Guei, had been killed by loyalist forces in the fighting. He also said that that Interior Minister Emil Boga Doudou had been killed.

Mr. Toussaint said heavily armed rebels in Ivory Coast attacked security and government buildings, including the presidential palace. But he was reluctant to describe the uprising as a coup.

Speaking to journalists in a hotel on Via Veneto where President Gbagbo is staying, the aide said that the uprising had undoubtedly been prepared in advance with the knowledge that the president would be out of town.

Despite Thursday's events, Mr. Toussaint said the president's visit to Rome would continue. Although President Gbagbo cancelled a meeting with the president of Italy's lower house of parliament Thursday to follow developments at home, the aide said an audience with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican Friday would go ahead as planned.