Abidjan (AFP) April 3, 2011
Special flights to Dakar have ferried 167 foreigners, including French and Lebanese nationals, out of the Ivory Coast's violence-hit city of Abidjan, the French military told AFP on Sunday.
"Seventy-seven, mostly French, left overnight and 90 in the afternoon (Sunday). These were not evacuations but options given to leave," French military spokesman Frederic Daguillon said.
"Commercial flights have not restarted, these are special flights," he said. "This afternoon there were many nationalities, notably Lebanese. The destination is Dakar passing through Lome."
The French embassy in Lome said the 77 who left overnight were mostly French and included about 30 children.
"The operation was carried out in two transport aircraft belonging to the French army. The French embassy received the refugees on arrival in Togo," the embassy said in a statement.
It was not a general evacuation but an opportunity to leave on a voluntary basis, it said.
More than 1,500 foreigners have sought refuge at the French military camp in Abidjan after four days of heavy fighting as internationally recognised president Alassane Ouattara launched an assault on his rival Laurent Gbagbo's stronghold.
The UN mission UNOCI has relocated its non-essential staff to the centre of the country due to repeated attacks on its peacekeepers by Gbagbo's troops.
"We have been attacked, shot at, our headquarters have been attacked. That makes work difficult. It has thus been decided to temporarily relocate non-essential staff, a process which is under way," said spokesman Hamadoun Toure.
He said they were being relocated to Bouake, a stronghold of Ouattara's Republican Forces army, without saying how many were involved.
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