French peacekeepers rescue missing journalist from rebel zone

New York, October 15, 2004—Ivory Coast journalist Amadou Dagnogo, who disappeared from the rebel-held town of Bouake nearly two months ago, was flown to the commercial capital, Abidjan, yesterday by French peacekeepers. Dagnogo, the Bouake correspondent for Abidjan-based independent daily L’Inter, said he had been detained by rebels for six days but had escaped.

In a telephone interview with CPJ, Dagnogo said he had been forced into a vehicle on August 22 by supporters of Guillaume Soro, leader of the Forces Nouvelles (FN) rebel movement that controls Bouake. They held him in detention, beat and tortured him, saying they did not like his articles, according to the journalist. He said they told him his newspaper was “too hard” on them.

Before disappearing, Dagnogo told his editor he had received threats from the FN. Dagnogo wrote articles about a split in the rebel movement and alleged atrocities by Soro’s men. Fighting broke out in June between Soro’s forces and those loyal to rival rebel commander Ibrahim Coulibaly, popularly known as Ib. Some local sources say L’Inter is seen as sympathetic to Coulibaly, and frequently publishes stories from his Web site.

Dagnogo said he had managed to escape after six days, thanks to “friends” among the pro-Soro rebels. He said he did not contact anyone immediately because he was still in hiding and without money.

Dagnogo said he later traveled north to Korhogo and Bamako, the capital of Mali, where he tried to get help to fly back to Abidjan. When that failed, he returned to Ivory Coast, to the western town of Man, where French peacekeepers have a base to the north of the ceasefire line. The peacekeepers agreed to fly him to Abidjan.

Ivory Coast has been divided into government-controlled south and rebel-held north since an armed rebellion in 2002. Fighting broke out in the north in June between rebel forces loyal to Coulibaly and those of Soro, who is also communications minister in the power-sharing government established under a fragile 2003 peace accord. Coulibaly was arrested in France in August 2003 on charges of planning to overthrow the government, but still has some supporters in the north.