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State Dept.:  Americans in Bouake are Safe - 2002-09-23

About 160 Americans are taking refuge at a school in the second largest city in Ivory Coast, not far from where government troops have been battling mutinous soldiers. But all of them are believed to be safe.

The Americans, most of them believed to be the children of missionaries, are not considered to be in immediate danger. State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher said they are waiting out fighting in the town, Bouake, where breakaway soldiers claim to be in control, amid indications that forces loyal to the government are planning an assault to retake the city.

"Despite reports of gunfire close to the school, the school has adequate supplies and students are reported safe," he said. "Our embassy remains in very close contact with the school."

The United States is coordinating with France, which has hundreds of troops based in its former colony, to ensure the safety of foreigners. But the U.S. government is advising Americans to avoid travel to the West African nation, describing the situation as fluid, even though the country's main city Abidjan is reported to be calm.