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Ivory Coast rebel uprising spreads

Gbagbo came to power in 2000
Gbagbo came to power in 2000

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ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (CNN) -- A rebel uprising in the Ivory Coast has entered its third day and continues to spread to other parts of the West African country.

Residents in the northern city of Bouake reported overnight gunfire, and said it was an assault by rebel forces on a pocket of government troops, Janine DiGiovanni, a reporter for The Times of London, said on Saturday.

The motive for the uprising is unclear. Initially the rebels said they staged the uprising because of government plans to demobilize the troops, loyal to Gen. Robert Guei, who led a military coup in 1999 but was ousted after elections in 2001.

Officials said Guei was killed in the fighting, but there was no independent confirmation. However, some rebels have denied they were under Guei's command.

Violence in Abidjan on Saturday seemed to be in the form of ethnic reprisals against mainly Muslim refugees from neighboring Burkina Faso. Houses were being burnt to the ground there.

In Bouake, about 200 miles north of coastal Abidjan, nearly 750 rebels were reportedly regrouping Saturday and have vowed not to leave the city without a bloody fight.

Further north, in Korhogo, rebels were reportedly handing out guns to civilians and driving through the streets, shooting their weapons into the air.

Bodies of the dead littered the streets of Abidjan on Friday, the results of fighting that began at about 3 a.m. on Thursday and continued throughout the day.

Interior Minister Emile Boga Doudou was also killed in the uprising. Government sources also said that Sports Minister Genevieve Bro Grebe was kidnapped along with the wife of Defence Minister Lyda Koussa.

The mutinous soldiers are believed to be well organised and well armed, with ground-to-ground missiles, which has officials fearing the revolt could lead to further destabilisation within the Ivory Coast, and perhaps neighbouring countries.

The revolt prompted President Laurent Gbagbo to cancel a meeting in Rome with Pope John Paul II on Friday. Gbagbo left from a military airport near Rome, according to the Italian Foreign Ministry, but officials would not reveal his destination.

The president had been scheduled to return home on Saturday.



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