Comorans staged angry anti-French protests as ousted rebel leader Mohamed Bacar arrived in the French isle of Reunion, where he could face legal action. (Report: K.Spencer)
Comorans staged angry anti-French protests on Thursday as France weighed whether to grant ousted rebel leader Mohamed Bacar asylum after he fled to its Indian Ocean territory of Mayotte.
French officials would not be drawn on Bacar's asylum plea, but signalled that he would face charges of illegally entering French territory and possession of weapons.
Bacar left Mayotte late Thursday aboard a French C-160 Transall transport aircraft, along with 23 Anjouan soldiers. They were due to land on the French island of Reunion at around 1:00 am (2100 GMT) on Friday.
Bacar "will be handed over to the judiciary as soon as he arrives on the territory of Reunion," France's minister for overseas territories Yves Jego said earlier.
Bacar had landed on Mayotte with a group of armed supporters on a speedboat on Wednesday after Comoran and African Union troops staged a joint invasion of his Anjouan island stronghold to depose him.
In the Comoros capital of Moroni, security forces Thursday used tear gas to disperse 1,000 people trying to march on the French embassy demanding that Bacar be sent back to face trial on charges of torturing opponents.
Groups of youths made new attempts to reach the embassy and were again fought back by police, while Comoran Defence Minister Mohamed Bacar Dossar demanded that France to hand the French-trained officer over.
"We understand the disappointment of our Comoran brothers, we will do everything we can to ensure that Bacar and his accomplices are brought back and sent to court in the Comoros," Dossar said.
A Frenchman who heads a primary school in Moroni was attacked by a mob as he headed to work, a French diplomat told AFP. He was not seriously wounded.
Anjouan exiles also staged angry protests in Mayotte on Thursday in which cars were burned and houses damaged, witnesses said.
Bacar defied months of warnings to end his self-proclaimed presidency of Anjouan -- the third largest island in the Comoros archipelago -- before he was finally ousted on Tuesday by the invasion force.
The Comoran Human Rights Foundation called on France to extradite the ousted rebel leader immediately.
The group urged France "to prove its solidarity with Comoros and the Comoran people by extraditing him without delay and avoiding bothersome adminstrative and diplomatic procedures."
Amid the protests in Mayotte, French defence ministry spokesman Laurent Teisseire said the Reunion authorities had agreed to accept Bacar and a military plane would transfer him to the island.
Jego, the secretary of state for overseas territories, said France was studying Bacar's request for political asylum and an answer would be given "as fast as possible, I hope".
Parrallel to the asylum request, "Mr Bacar will be the subject of appropriate judicial procedures," foreign ministry spokeswoman Pascale Andreani told journalists in Paris.
French security forces guarded the main Pamandzi airport on Mayotte where Bacar was taken Thursday and closed off the road linking it to the main police station where several angry Anjouan exiles had gathered.
Demonstrators hurled stones at cars belonging to French nationals and two were injured, witnesses said. Exiles said they were outraged at the protection given to Bacar, who faces accusations of torturing his opponents.
Mayotte is in the same chain of islands as the Comoros but opted to remain French when the Comoros became independent in 1975. Bacar, and 23 of soldiers and associates, arrived there Wednesday and sought refuge with a brother.
Bacar "entered Mayotte illegally where he was immediately apprehended and disarmed by the French authorities," Andreani said in Paris.
France backed the invasion by 1,400 Comoran and African Union troops and loaned the AU force the ships used to take them to Anjouan at dawn, but it has no extradition agreement with the Comoros.
The French government has welcomed the success of the military operation in Anjouan.
The Comoran and African Union forces battled die-hard supporters of Bacar on Wednesday as the central government vowed to set up an interim administration on Anjouan this week.
At least 11 civilians were wounded in the operation, hospital sources said Wednesday.
Comoran Vice President Ikililou Dhoinine is running an interim administration on Anjouan ahead of a new transitional government expected by the weekend. New elections have been slated for May.
Date created : 2008-03-27