The Michigan Daily - Thursday, October 5, 1995 - 9F
French force coup leader to release Comoros president
MORONI, Comoros Islands (AP)-
Cornered by French commandos, a vet-
eran mercenary freed the Comoros
president yesterday and haggled for a
way out of his latest coup-gone-bad.
Six hundred French troops stormed
this African island nation by plane and
speedboat at dawn, threw together a
bizarre convoy of firetrucks and a mo-
bie airplane stairway and headed for
coupmaker Bob Denard's compound.
At least three people were killed during
the landing, but not a shot was fired at
Denard, interviewed last night by
French television stations, said he
expectes to surrender today.
"I'm not going to resist," Denard
said. "I await nothing more, except to
leave honorably. ... It's a question of
hours." Earlier, he had said negotia-
tions were continuing.
As the tide moved against Denard,
Comorian Prime Minister Mohammed
Caabi el Yachroutou, who hid out in the
French Embassy following the coup,
announced in a fax sent to Paris that he
had formed a coalition government sup-
ported by 13 parties.
Yachroutou also announced on Ra-
dio Comoros an amnesty for soldiers
allied with Denard.
French Defense Ministry spokesman
Gen. Raymond Germanos initially told
a news conference in Paris that Denard
If I disarm my
men, they'll be
- Bob Denard
mercenaries at Hahaya airport, said
Capt. Robert Pellegrin, the commander.
After securingthe airfield, the French
landed several planes of troops and
commandeered airport vehicles, includ-
ing two fire trucks and a mobile air-
The strange procession reached the
area nearmilitary headquarters at night-
fall, and soldiers closed roads around
Denard's hillside compound.
The French demanded his uncondi-
tional surrender, citing an international
warrant they issued for his arrest. Pros-
ecutors said he had left France illegally
as they probed his role in the death of
another Comorian president in 1989.
Denardhas stagedthree coups on this
dirt-poor chain of islands, which he
ruled through figurehead presidents
from 1978 to 1989, when France nego-
tiated his departure..
Yesterday's intervention seemed to
mark an end to French tolerance for the
buccaneer who has claimed to have
served French interests around Africa.
By sending in its forces, France also
has reasserted its policeman's role in a
former colony - but with a notable
During the Cold War, France often
gave more than tacit support to coups
against African leaders who tilted to-
ward Moscow. This time, France sided
with the constitutional government,
even though Paris may have had doubts
about its policies toward the French.
Behind the new policy is a recogni-
A forward reconnaissance patrol of French marines stops a taxi on the road to Moroni, the capital of the Comoros Islands.
had given up and freed President Said
Mohamed Djohar, held captive since
last Thursday's coup.
But ministry staff corrected
Germanos and said the surrender had
not been confirmed. They did confirm
Djohar had been taken to the French
Embassy after his release.
Denard nonetheless seemed beaten
in the latest of a string of coups in his
three-decade career as Africa's most
notorious mercenary, with France's 600
elite troops - armed with bazookas
and machine guns - cornering him in
the Comoros military headquarters.
French soldiers closed roads in the
capital, and a showdown was possible
between the French commandos and
several hundred Comorian troops in-
side the military compound under the
At least three people died and 11
were iniured in the French dawn assault
that secured the Hahaya airport 12 miles
north of Moroni, the capital, and gained
the troops a key foothold near the cen-
tral harbor and embassy.
The dead included two Comorian
soldiers shot to death and a motorcycle
driver killed by gunfire while trans-
porting a French news photographer.
"If I disarm my men, they'll be dead,"
Denard, 66, said earlier yesterday. "I
don't want to have a bloodbath on my
conscience. We will negotiate."
Germanos said French President
Jacques Chirac made the decision to
intervene late Friday, a few hours after
his government said it would not do so.
French officials declined to say what
prompted the change.
The assault began with about 40 com-
mandos swarming ashore on inflatable
speedboats and battling with 30
Comorian soldiers and four French
A suspected foreign mercenary (far
right) is ferried across the Maroni
harbor towprd a freighter believed to be
the mercenaries' base.
tion that Africa is no longer a bone of
contention in the East-West battle for
influence in developing countries.
Despite the morning fighting yester-
day, much of Moroni appeared calm.
People gathered in the streets, unafraid
of gunfire spreading beyond the airport
and harbor area.
In 1978, Denard placed Ahmed
Abdallah Abderrahmane in the presi-
dency and commanded the presidential
guard. Abdallah was shot in 1989 under
mysterious circumstances that led to
France forcing Denard to leave the is-
Denard had been living quietly in
France since 1993, when he was given
a five-year suspended sentence for try-
ing to overthrow the Marxist govern-
ment of Benin in 1977. He remains
under a death sentence in Benin.
NATO planes strike.Serb radar; talks continue
(AP) - Bosnian Serbs swept NATO
warplanes with radar and got a swift
response yesterday as NATO warplanes
fired missiles at three Bosnian Serb
The airstrikes came as the United
States was trying to maintain momen-
tum for a Bosnian peace plan just as the
efforts appeared to be paying off. U.S.
Assistant Secretary of State Richard
Holbrooke reportedprogress in his quest
for a cease-fire.
A NATO spokesman in Naples, Italy,
said two missiles were fired yesterday
morning, one each at sites in southern and
central Bosnia. The spokesman, Franco
Veltri, said athird missilewas fired in the
afternoon at a site in central Bosnia.
NATO still didn't know late yester-
day whether the missiles hit their tar-
gets or how much damage they might
WASHINGTON (AP) - Almost
one in every three young black men is
serving a criminal sentence - either
prison, probation or parole, according
to a study by an advocacy group. That's
a dramatic increase from five years
earlier, when the proportion was one
The statistics released yesterday are:
sure to fuel arguments about whether
blacks are treated fairly by the crimi-
nal justice system -a theme that per-
meated the O.J. Simpson trial. It also is
an issue cited by organizers of a na-
tional black men's march for unity and
"If this were basically white youth in
this dilemma or sentenced at this level,
we would assume something is wrong
with the system, not something wrong
with the children," said civil rights ac-
tivist Jesse Jackson.
The report was released by The Sen-
tencing Project, a non-profit research
and prison watchdog group that advo-
cates alternatives to prison sentences
and offers technical assistance to pub-
lic defenders, bar associations and
Its report, funded by grants from the
Drug Policy Foundation, the Edna
McConnell Clark Foundation and the
Public Welfare Foundation, argues that
the mandatory minimum sentences and
stepped up enforcement that began with
the 1980s "war on drugs" have fallen
have done, Veltri said. He provided no
other details of the targets.
Veltri said the pilots acted in self-
defense after anti-aircraft radar locked
onto their planes. "That constituted an
immediate threat against the aircraft,"
he said. When anti-aircraft tadar locks
onto a plane, it is considered prepara-
tion for a potential attack.
It was the first NATO attack on Serb
targets since Sept. 20, when the alliance
halted two weeks of airstrikes because
est guns from around besieged Sarajevo.
The strikes came as Holbrooke re-
ported progress in his effort to broker a
cease-fire. After meeting officials in
Sarajevo, Holbrooke spoke of a "seri-
ous proposal" by the government but he
didn't give details.
In Washington, State Department
spokesman Nicholas Burns called the
development "encouraging" but said
the United States is concerned about
He cited a Bosnian Serb counter-
offensive in the Bihac region in north-
west Bosnia and the continuation of
Bosnian and Croatian offensives in
Burns also criticized the Bosnian
government for firing four missiles at
Serbs from within the weapons-exclu-
sion zone around Sarajevo.
"This was highly counter-productive.
And we have called upon all parties,
including the Bosnian government, to
refrain from military activities that could
jeopardize the peace process,"Burns said.
Holbrooke was due toholdmore talks
today with Serbian President Slobodan
Milosevic, the regional powerbroker in
the Balkans and chief negotiator for
Bosnia's rebel Serbs.
In recent weeks, Holbrooke has suc-
ceeded in getting the warring sides to
agree to a territorial division of Bosnia
and to share power in a postwar gov-
Mirko Pejanovic, a member of
Bosnia's collective presidency, said a
cease-fire can be expected soon.
Jadranko Prlic, the vice premier of the
Bosnian government, went even fur-
ther, predicting an end to the war.
Aleksa Buha, foreign minister in the
Serbs' self-declared state, told the
Bosnian Serb news agency that a cease-
fire "could be signed on Oct. 20 in
Moscow said it would keep up diplo-
matic pressure. After meeting with
Bosnian Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic
in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister
Andrei Kozyrev pledged an "extra ef-
fort" to obtain a cease-fire.
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