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Expats airlifted from Ivory Coast

Troops supervise the disembarkment of evacuees at Yamoussoukro airport
Troops supervise the disembarkment of evacuees at Yamoussoukro airport

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Students and school staff caught in the crossfire are flown out of Ivory Coast. (September 26)
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YAMOUSSOUKRO, Ivory Coast -- French and U.S. forces are evacuating hundreds of French nationals from the northern Ivory Coast city of Korhogo.

The evacuation, involving helicopters and transport planes, began on Sunday as rebels continued to take control of towns across the West African nation.

French army spokesman Col. Charles de Kersabiec said the operation began at 4:30 a.m. local time and that security forces had secured the airport at Korhogo by 8 a.m.

The evacuees, who had volunteered to leave the area, are being airlifted to Yamoussoukro, the capital city.

An estimated 1,500 U.S., British, French, German and other nationals have already been evacuated from rebel-held Bouake.

Local residents are not allowed to leave Korhogo and other rebel-held towns because the rebels fear an exodus would result.

The rebels, apparently seeking control of Ivory Coast, have gained control of the mostly Muslim, northern part of the country, and are heading westward. They have threatened to seize control of the capital.

The rebels are part of a military insurgency that began on September 19 in the country's largest city, Abidjan.

The attempted coup involved a core group of 750-800 soldiers angry over dismissal from the army for suspected disloyalty.

Foreign nationals have been evacuated by French and U.S. troops
Foreign nationals have been evacuated by French and U.S. troops

Last week, French troops negotiated a 48-hour cease-fire with rebels to allow expats to flee Bouake, which was home to 650 French nationals and an unknown number of other Europeans and Americans.

Most of Bouake's half-million people remain trapped in what the government is calling a "war zone."

Defence Minister Moise Lida Kouassi said: "We declare the regions of Bouake and Korhogo a war zone.

"Apart from friendly forces, whoever happens to be bearing arms will be considered an enemy of the state and the people."

As well as hundreds of French troops, the United States and Britain have sent forces to the area to ensure the safe evacuation of their citizens.

The U.S. State Department has urged U.S. citizens to leave the country temporarily while there was still space available on outgoing flights.

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