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Ghana coup attempt appears linked to unrest over austerity plan

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Peace and stability still elude trouble-ridden Ghana following yet another apparent coup attempt last weekend - the fifth since Flt. Lt. Jerry Rawlings seized power 27 months ago.

It is a setback to the military government's attempt to implement an unpopular International Monetary Fund-World Bank austerity program aimed at rescuing the country from economic and political collapse.

Details of the latest coup attempt are unclear, but at least 11 people are reported to have been killed near the Ivory Coast border on the west and on Prampram Beach in the east toward Togo, according to Accra radio.

The dissidents, mainly Ghanaian military exiles based in Ivory Coast and Togo , were seeking to blow up strategic civilian and military installations, Accra radio said.

Three soldiers, sentenced to death for their part in the last previous coup attempt in June 1983, were captured and executed by firing squad last weekend.

The government continues to hunt for fugitives but appears to have the situation under control. Communications with the outside world were scarcely interrupted, but the former midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew was restored.

Last weekend's coup attempt also marks the first time that conservative, French-speaking Ivory Coast has been implicated in a Ghanaian coup attempt. It will chill the improved bilateral relations with the Ivory Coast that followed Rawlings' meeting with Ivorian President Felix Houphouet-Boigny last December.

One of the main subjects discussed at the meeting was a threat to Ghanaian security posed by the presence of dozens of political exiles in the Ivorian capital, Abidjan. Thousands of Ghanaians are also estimated to have crossed the border to escape food shortages and economic hardship in Ghana.

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