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DC09

French Shoot Down Ivory Coast Warplanes

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ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast - Government warplanes bombed a rebel stronghold Saturday, killing a French peacekeeper and injuring 20 other people, and French troops responded by shooting down two military planes and an attack helicopter, U.N. officials said.

The violence threatened to drag French and U.N. peacekeepers into Ivory Coast's renewed civil war, sparked when army hardliners Thursday broke a cease-fire after more than a year of relative peace and launched airstrikes on rebel-held cities.

The government warplanes struck the northern town of Bouake on Saturday afternoon, killing the French soldier, U.N. mission spokesman Jean Victor Nkolo said. It was not clear whether the 20 injured were French soldiers or others, or what the air raid was targeting.

Soon after, a U.N. military spokesman said French forces shot down two Ivory Coast warplanes and an attack helicopter over rebel territory.

Ivory Coast military commanders have vowed to retake the north, held by rebels since the September 2002 start of the war in the world's top cocoa producer.

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