U.S. Troops Prepare to Help in Ivory Coast

"We are hoping and praying that immediately someone will go in there and evacuate them out before it's too late," Forlines told ABCNEWS:

Major Fractures

The violence, which began last week, is believed to be the latest outbreak in a chain of civil unrest that began with Gen. Robert Guei's coup in December 1999.

Before then, Ivory Coast had been seen as an oasis of stability in a region torn by some of the continent's most brutal wars.

Two major military rebellions and disputed elections followed the coup, and since then, the country has fractured between Guei's supporters, President Laurent Gbagbo, and top opposition leader Alassane Dramane Ouattara, and between the mainly Muslim north and the predominantly Christian south.

The insurgents held responsible for the latest coup attempt in the commercial capital, Abidjan, and other cities are suspected to include a core group of 700 to 800 ex-soldiers angry over their recent purge from the army for suspected loyalty to Guei. Guei was killed in the first hours of the latest uprising.

The uprising was quickly put down, and the rebels withdrew to Bouake, and to the northern city of Korhogo.

No Westerners are yet known to have been hurt in the fighting.

ABCNEWS' John McWethy at the Pentagon and Matt Frucci in New York contributed to this report.

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