Sat, Mar 27, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Rallies erupt again in Ivory Coast after machete murders

REUTERS , ABIDJAN

Opponents of Ivory Coast's President Laurent Gbagbo yesterday vowed to try again to march in the main city Abidjan, despite vicious clashes in which at least 25 people were killed.

Opposition groups in the West African country attempted to hold a rally in the city center on Thursday, ignoring a ban by authorities, but as they gathered in different suburbs clashes broke out with security forces and Gbagbo supporters.

Two policemen were shot and hacked to pieces while 12 other people died from machete wounds, police and army officials said.

Military helicopters clattered overhead, soldiers sealed off the city center and gunshots rang out in several districts.

The death toll -- state radio said it was 25 but the opposition put the figure at nearly 40 -- was the highest in the city since a failed coup attempt in September, 2002 sparked civil war in the world's top cocoa grower.

The conflict was officially declared over in July last year but rebel forces still control the north of the country and most of the peace accord has yet to be implemented.

The rebel movement and two opposition parties suspended their participation in a power-sharing government in protest at Thursday's violence, accusing security forces of shooting unarmed demonstrators. Police said they were fired on first.

The PDCI froze its participation in the government.

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