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Ivory Coast mobs clash with French

Government planes bomb French peacekeepers; 10 dead
Ivory Coast mobs targeted French stores in Abidjan.
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(CNN) -- Mobs loyal to the Ivory Coast government militias clashed with French peacekeeping troops in Abidjan in the worst violence observers have seen between France and its former colony in decades.

The fighting began after Ivory Coast warplanes bombed a French position near Bouake in the north Saturday -- killing nine French peacekeepers and an American citizen -- in a move that violated a cease-fire between the government and rebels.

French troops retaliated by destroying five Ivorian aircraft, sparking battles with government supporters in the southern coastal city of Abidjan, who fought to wrest control of the airport from the French military.

About 100 people were stranded at the airport, and smoke billowed from the suburb of Cocody after an attack on a French school.

Government loyalists were stationed at roadblocks in the city, attacking cars holding suspected foreigners.

The sound of explosions and heavy artillery fire rocked Abidjan before dying down about 4 a.m. Sunday.

Meeting in an emergency session on Saturday, the U.N. Security Council condemned the attack on French forces and called on the "immediate cessation" of military operations in accordance with a May ceasefire agreement.

The council has authorized peacekeepers to use "all necessary means" to halt fighting in the West African nation.

Former Sen. John Danforth, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said after the meeting the council understands that "France is clearly going to defend French troops and French citizens that are under attack."

Ivory Coast has been split between the loyalist south and rebel-held north since an attempted coup in September 2002 triggered a civil war. The nation gained its independence from France in 1960.

A total of 6,000 U.N. peacekeepers and 4,000 French soldiers have been trying to keep the peace in the buffer zone between north and south.

Appearing on national television, presidential spokesman Desire Tagro called for calm to be restored and said mob attacks on civilians should cease.

Leaders of the Young Patriots went on television to announce that France was attacking the nation's administrative capital of Yamoussoukro and said the pro-government militia group is now at war with France, CNN was told.

The violence came on the same day the African Union condemned air strikes by Ivory Coast government forces on former rebel targets in the north and center of the country.

The African Union (AU) accused the Ivory Coast government of breaking existing peace agreements, according to a statement issued after top-level talks.

AU chairman President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, "expressed his deep concern at the renewed fighting, particularly at the bombardment by government forces on rebel locations in the northern part of Ivory Coast," said the statement, which was read to CNN by presidential spokeswoman Remi Oyo.

Obasanjo said he hoped level heads would prevail and held a conference for the two warring factions to "address the issues at hand."

The impromptu meeting was held at Obasanjo's estate outside Nigeria's commercial capital, Lagos.

It was attended by the chairman of the AU Commission, Alpha Oumar Konare and Ghanaian Foreign Minister Addo Kuffour and others.

Ghana is currently head of ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States.

Neither the Ivory Coast nor the rebels sent representatives.

CNN's Jeff Koinange contributed to this report.

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