Anti-French Violence Probed (SA), Feb. 4

Paris—Paris prosecutors have opened a preliminary inquiry into anti-French violence committed in Ivory Coast last year, including alleged attempted murder, rapes, robberies and looting.

Prosecutors say their investigation of 136 complaints filed by French citizens who returned home after the spate of anti-foreigner violence in the west African state in November 2004 will take several months.

Among the complaints filed, three are for rape and one for attempted murder and rape.

The others allege that French nationals were the victims of robberies, looting and damage to homes, schools and businesses in Abidjan.

French gendarmes were heading to Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s commercial capital, to investigate the claims.

Rebels have controlled the north of Ivory Coast since September 2002 following a failed coup attempt against President Laurent Gbagbo.

A fragile truce monitored by French and UN peacekeepers was broken in November when the Ivorian air force launched a series of strikes on rebel-held cities.

One raid killed nine French peacekeepers and a US aid worker.

The French wiped out the Ivorian air force in retaliation, an act which sparked days of violence in Abidjan and other southern cities, most of which targeted French nationals and other expatriates.

About 8 000 foreign civilians fled the country, once a model of calm and stability in west Africa.

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