Gunfire broke out in Western Africa Sunday as hopes for a truce between rebels in Ivory Coast and their government failed. Efforts by West African mediators to secure a cease fire collapsed for the second day in a row.
Hundreds have died fighting during an uprising sparked by disgruntled former soldiers. Rebel forces are calling for the withdrawal of the more than 1,000 French troops who helped evacuate foreigners when the fighting began.
Four of those foreigners, returned home to Lubbock Sunday night. The Abbott family lived in Africa for the last decade on a missionary assignment, the rebel fighting forced them out. They escaped last week, but just made it into Lubbock Sunday.
NewsChannel 11 was there when their church family welcomed them home. Never ending hugs, that is what the congregation of First Baptist Church had to give the Abbott family. David and Ann along with their two boys, Davy and Stephen returned home after weeks of living in fear.
"The rebels took over our little town Monday a week ago and since them it's been pretty heavy fighting and toward the end they cut off our phones by the Lords grace we had a satellite phone and it allowed us to keep up with the special forces. And we knew by Saturday that they were coming in to get us but we didn't know how," David Abbott said.
The Abbott family along with 18 others at their hospital compound, drove to a secluded spot and we're rescued by French helicopters. Eventually they were taken by C130's to Gana. "The Embassy said it was necessary for us to evacuate so for several days it's been really intense, the shooting kept us awake for a week and we've been confined to a compound," David said.
David Abbott says the rebels were not after Americans, but the fighting made them unsafe. "The scary part was that the fighting was going on within 200 yards of our compound and we had bullets coming through houses and just a tremendous amount of shooting around us."
While locked into the compound David remained the communicator for the group on a satellite phone, while Ann prepared the family to leave. "We brought home basically our documents, a little bit of jewelry and just two pairs of clothes a piece and that's all we have. It was hard the first couple of days but we know that lives are much more important than things," Ann Abbott said.
"Lord willing if it calms down and the door opens back up, we'll go back to the compound because our hearts our with the people there and with the ministry that God has given us there and we're convinced that if God leads us to a place he's going to take care of us," David said.
So far the fighting has not moved into the where area they lived. Their hope is to go back to Africa and find their home just as they left it, then pick up on the life they had to leave.