Thousands of Ivorians flee to Liberia after aborted coup claimBy TAMBA JEAN-MATTHEW and AFP | Wednesday, June 13 2012 at 13:58
Thousands of Ivorians are are fleeing into neighbouring Liberia following claims of a failed coup attempt announced by the Ivorian authorities on Tuesday.
The Ivorian government said it had foiled a plot to overthrow President Alassane Ouattara by a group of exiled army officers loyal to his ousted predecessor Laurent Gbagbo.
In an interview on public television station RTI aired late Tuesday, Interior Minister Hamed Bakayoko accused pro-Gbagbo officers and former members of his administration of plotting to install a transitional military council.
"We had very specific information that a group of officers in exile in [the Ghanaian capital] Accra were preparing a military operation in Cote d'Ivoire aimed at destablising the country," he said.
RTI aired undated video footage showing a group of uniformed men, including a spokesman, proclaiming the dissolution of the West African country's institutions and the creation of a "Council for national sovereignty".
"This video is authentic," said Mr Bakayoko, who added that the coup plotters' spokesman, whom he named as Colonel Kate Gnatoa, and several others had been arrested.
Among the alleged leaders of the would-be putsch was former defence minister Moise Lida Kouassi, who was arrested last week in Togo, Mr Bakayoko said.
An initial exodus began Monday with the killing of seven UN soldiers inside the Ivorian territory by armed men who allegedly cross the border from Liberia.
Since the announcement of the alleged aborted coup on Tuesday night, panic is being reported among residents of the commercial capital Abidjan.
Humanitarian workers said the exodus was especially heavy all along the estimated 200 km-long north-western and south-western border with Liberia.
On Monday, Albert Brooks of the Danish Refugee Council who is working in the region, told reporters that the Ivorian refugees were fleeing murders they said were by unidentified armed men who set their houses ablaze.
After being in power for 10 years, Gbagbo refused to concede defeat to arch-rival Ouattara in the November 2010 presidential polls, sparking a crisis that lasted months and cost some 3,000 lives.
He was eventually captured by pro-Ouattara forces, with Western assistance, and is now locked up in The Hague where he faces charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court.
Gbagbo loyalists accuse Ouattara's administration of persecution. Forces loyal to the ousted strongman have been accused of being behind a spate of attacks in the west of the country.
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