AP, Abidjan, Ivory Coast and Cape Town, South Africa and
France and the UN began evacuating thousands of French and other expatriates yesterday trapped at UN offices and a French military base amid days of anti-foreigner rampages in Ivory Coast's largest city, French and UN officials said.
France alone expected to evacuate between 4,000 to 8,000 of its citizens from across Ivory Coast -- potentially the majority of the 14,000 French still in the former French colony, French Embassy spokesman Francois Guenon said.
"It is on a voluntary basis. We are not going to evacuate all our French citizens because they are too many," Guenon said.
"We are evaluating the number of those wanting to leave and we have between 4,000 to 8,000 French who have expressed a wish to leave whether temporarily or for good," he said.
Evacuations started yesterday morning with a convoy of 40 UN personnel, a UN spokesman said.
The 40 were among more than 1,000 expatriates who have holed up in a UN headquarters amid four days of looting and attacks, Mathieu said.
More than 1,600 other foreigners who have taken refuge in a French military base in Abidjan are to be flown out. They included 985 French and citizens of 42 other countries, the French said.
Violence erupted in Ivory Coast, the world's top cocoa producer and West Africa's economic powerhouse, on Saturday after Ivory Coast warplanes killed nine French peacekeepers and a US aid worker in an airstrike on the rebel-held north.
France wiped out the nation's newly built-up airforce on the tarmac in retaliation, sparking a violent anti-French uprising of looting, burning and attacks by loyalist youths.