Heavy arms fire near Ivory Coast political capital

The AU confirms Alassane Ouattara as duly elected President of Ivory Coast.

Abidjan: Residents reported heavy arms fire in Tiebissou, a town near the line between zones controlled by the country`s rival factions and near Ivory Coast`s political capital Yamoussoukro.

"Heavy arms fire started toward 8:00 pm (2000 GMT)," a resident said.

"At first they came from the southern entrance of the town, before moving," she said, adding that the firing had continued into the night.

Two other witnesses confirmed the report, one of whom also spoke of sporadic fire from Kalashnikov rifles.

"We are stuck in our houses," said one resident.

Fighting has broken out in recent days between forces loyal to Ivory Coast`s incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo and those backing his rival Alassane Ouattara.

Gbagbo is refusing to accept the international community`s recognition of Ouattara as the victor of last November`s Presidential Election.

In mid-December, the two sides clashed in Tiebissou, a town about 40 kilometres (25 miles) north of Yamoussoukro. Both lie in the southern zone controlled by Gbagbo`s forces.

For the last three weeks, Gbagbo`s soldiers have been fighting FN forces in the west of the country while at the same time the level of violence has steadily increased in Abidjan.

Late on Thursday, the house of a leading member of Gbagbo`s camp, Damana Pickass, came under fire, Pickass and other sources reported.

"Unidentified individuals attacked my home with grenades, a machine gun and an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade)," said Pickass.

"Happily, I wasn`t there," he added, but his brother had been slightly hurt by grenade fragments.

Pickass was a member of the electoral commission that organised the disputed Presidential Election.

He came to international attention when he ripped up copies of the provisional results as they were about to be announced on television by the commission`s spokesman, denouncing what he said was an "electoral hold-up" benefitting the Ouattara camp.

Ouattara`s supporters say about 20 homes belonging to his supporters have been pillaged over the past few days.

Fighters of the New Forces, who now back Ouattara, have controlled the north of the country since their unsuccessful coup bid against Gbagbo in 2002.

The latest clashes came hours after the African Union confirmed that it acknowledged Ouattara as the duly elected President of the country, a decision quickly rejected by the Gbagbo camp.

Bureau Report

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