September 28, 2002 - The Guardian: Second Ivory Coast City Evacuated

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2002: 09 September 2002 Peace Corps Headlines: September 28, 2002 - The Guardian: Second Ivory Coast City Evacuated

By Admin1 (admin) on Sunday, September 29, 2002 - 2:17 pm: Edit Post

Second Ivory Coast City Evacuated

Read and comment on this story from the The Guardian that says that rescue for one Peace Corps Volunteer came after 10 days holed up with other Peace Corps volunteers in Korhogo's Baptist mission to which they fled Thursday, when rebels opened fire outside the glass walls of the Peace Corps headquarters at:

Second Ivory Coast City Evacuated*

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Second Ivory Coast City Evacuated

Sunday September 29, 2002 2:40 PM

Caption: An American soldier, foreground, stands guard as a French soldier, background, directs people getting off the evacuation plane at the airport in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast Sunday Sept. 29, 2002. A joint operation between American and French troops evacuated the foreigners in Korhogo in the north of the Ivory Coast. (AP Photo/Christine Nesbitt)

YAMOUSSOUKRO, Ivory Coast (AP) - French and U.S. forces launched an air evacuation Sunday of a second threatened Ivory Coast city, swooping in by helicopters to pluck up Westerners in the remote, rebel-held city of Korhogo.

French and U.S. C-130 military cargo planes brought the evacuees to Yamoussoukro, capital of Ivory Coast and staging area for Western rescue missions in the once-tranquil West African nation's deadliest-ever rebellion.

U.S. soldiers lifted children clutching stuffed rabbits and other toys through the side doors of the cargo planes. Other soldiers, armed with assault rifles, stood guard.

U.S. Peace Corps volunteers, nuns in white habits and white shoes, families clutching children and bags all milled about, trying to get their bearings after the dramatic pre-dawn evacuation.

For Arnold Nestel, from Riverton, Utah, rescue came after 10 days holed up with other Peace Corps volunteers in Korhogo's Baptist mission to which they fled Thursday, when rebels opened fire outside the glass walls of the Peace Corps headquarters.

``I've only had five months in my small village,'' said Nestel, regretting the sudden, violent end to his assignment. ``Not enough time to really make a difference. It's really sad.''

Even Ivory Coast's central capital, base for the evacuation, was a city on edge.

As three buses carrying the latest American evacuees left Yamoussoukro's airport, escorted by a U.S. humvee, reports of gunfire in the capital reached the airport, and the buses and Americans quickly returned.

Soon afterward, authorities discounted the reported gunfire as rumor. But the concerns signaled, at a minimum, rising tensions ahead of a threatened showdown between Ivory Coast's rebel and loyalists forces.

The evacuation comes in the face of what Ivory Coast's government says will be an attack to retake Korhogo and the larger, central city of Bouake, both in rebel hands since a bloody failed coup attempt Sept. 19. About 270 people died in the uprising's first days.

West African leaders due to meet later Sunday in Ghana were expected to approve deployment of a West African military force on behalf of the beleaguered government of Ivory Coast, a former French colony.

French troops led an evacuation of more than 2,000 Westerners from Bouake on Thursday and Friday.

The new operation rescuing Westerners in Korhogo began before dawn Sunday, with military helicopters rushing the 180 miles north from Yamoussoukro.

By 8 a.m., troops had secured the Korhogo airport, about 10 miles outside of the city.

Helicopters picked up the evacuees at points around Korhogo, taking them to the Korhogo airport for flights to Yamoussoukro.

U.S. and French soldiers welcomed the evacuees - many of whom applauded as a French officer who issued a greeting. U.S. soldiers handed babies and children out side doors, and passed luggage hand-to-hand down the ramp.

Western diplomatic officials said the evacuation was expected to carry several hundred French, Americans and other Westerners out of Korhogo - many of them missionaries and aid workers.

Authorities still were deciding the final destination of the evacuees once they reach Yamoussoukro, U.S. Lt. Col. Robert A. Warburg, a spokesman for the American forces here, said.

Rebels in recent days have been expanding their northern territory, taking the city of Odienne and moving south and west to secure their hold.

Warburg declined to say whether any more evacuations were coming. ``We're taking one event as it comes,'' the American said.

'I'd like to stress that the French have a lead in this operation and we are supporting this operation,'' Warburg said.

The evacuations leave thousands of Bouake's half-million local residents trying to flee the area by foot, only to be turned back by rebel forces at checkpoints - who insist civilians must stay.
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2002

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