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Swiss caught in Ivory Coast unrest

French armoured vehicles patrol the streets in the town of Yamoussoukro Keystone

The foreign ministry has for the moment ruled out an evacuation of the approximately 270 Swiss residents in the Ivory Coast.

It comes following a report by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) that several hundred people were injured in fighting at the weekend.

A spokeswoman for the foreign ministry, Daniela Stoffel, said the 267 Swiss currently in Ivory Coast had not been affected by the violence directed at French citizens and French holdings.

Most of the Swiss have been confined to their homes or have taken refuge at French military bases.

A group of Swiss research students working in the west of the country were evacuated by the French army to a safer location near Abidjan.

The Swiss foreign ministry said that any evacuation would have to be carried out by French forces, which have taken control of the airport in the capital, Abidjan.

“We’re stuck here since the airport is closed, occupied by French troops, and we don’t have any cars,” said Swiss businessman Adolphe Haas.

Many wounded

The ICRC said on Monday that more than 400 people were injured in fighting at the weekend between French and Ivorian soldiers.

The Geneva-based organisation said the exact death toll was not known, but was expected to be high.

An ICRC spokesman, Ian Piper, said local television in the country had accused the organisation of not being neutral.

“Consequently, we fear attacks against our personnel and vehicles,” Piper said.

He added that many humanitarian organisations had been attacked.

The ICRC has 30 delegates in Abidjan and eight elsewhere in the country.

The clashes began on Saturday after French forces destroyed the small air force of its former West African colony in retaliation for an Ivory Coast air strike which killed nine French peacekeepers.

Angry mobs confronted the French soldiers, burned French property and looted the homes of French citizens.

swissinfo with agencies

Ivory Coast is a former French colony.
Rebels have controlled the north of the country since a coup attempt two years ago.
French and United Nations peacekeepers have been deployed in a buffer zone between the two sides.
Ivory Coast accounts for 45 per cent of the world’s cocoa.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR