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French Troops in Ivory Coast Deployed to Secure Bank in City of Man - 2003-10-27

French troops have been sent to the city of Man in the rebel held northwest of Ivory Coast after an attack on a bank.

For the second time in a month, French forces have been deployed to secure a bank in the rebel held north of Ivory Coast. On both occasions, branches of the Central Bank of West African States - which is responsible for distributing the shared regional currency, the CFA Franc - have been targeted.

Four armed suspects were arrested Sunday, after an attack on the bank in the early morning hours (about 0200 UTC). Gunfire was heard in the town immediately following the attack. Witnesses say some people were injured. There have been no reported deaths.

No cash is reported to have been stolen from the bank, though office equipment was looted.

French Lieutenant-Colonel Georges Peillon has confirmed that French troops were sent in to restore order at the request of rebel leaders. The exact number of French troops deployed to Man is unclear.

Man lies in territory under rebel control. However, this is the second time that the rebels, known as the New Forces, have called on the French for assistance in maintaining order.

According to the New Forces communications representative, Antoine Beugre, calm was restored quickly with the arrival of the French troops.

In a similar bank attack in September, which took place in the rebel stronghold of Bouake, more than 20 people were killed in the gunfire and stampede that followed. On that occasion too, French troops were called in to restore order.

There are 4,000 French troops in Ivory Coast. France sent peacekeepers to its former colony after a rebel uprising in September 2002 saw the government lose control of the northern half of the country.

A peace accord signed in Paris in January is faltering. New Forces ministers have withdrawn from the government of reconciliation and a disarmament program, which is seen as key to restoring peace and stability, has stalled.