Ivory Coast: Alassane Ouattara`s troops storm Gbagbo`s bunker

French military confirmed, fighting was under way around Gbagbo`s residence.

Updated: Apr 07, 2011, 00:57 AM IST

Abidjan: Forces loyal to Ivory Coast presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara on Wednesday stormed the residence of incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo who has refused to cede power, a spokeswoman for Ouattara forces told Reuters.

"Yes they (Ouattara forces) are in the process of entering the residence to seize Gbagbo, they have not taken him yet, but they are in the process, they are in the building," Affousy Bamba told Reuters

Witnesses said gunfire rang out both near the presidential palace and Gbagbo`s residence in an apparent bid to bounce him into ending to his decade-long rule of the world`s number one cocoa producer.

"We are going to take Laurent Gbagbo out of his hole and hand him over to the president of the republic," said Sidiki Konate, spokesman for Ouattara`s forces.

"We are going to his residence to fetch him and put an end to this comedy ...This charade must end because the country is collapsing," he said.

Gbagbo was holed up in his residence in the northern suburb Cocody, refusing to surrender.

"We are hearing strong explosions and bursts of machine gun fire around the residence," a resident said.

France, the west African nation`s former colonial power, said Gbagbo had been seeking guarantees on his own safety before finally throwing in the towel but negotiations to persuade him to surrender have failed.

Even before the new deadlock in attempts to end a four-month post-election stand-off, Gbagbo had rejected demands that he recognise Ouattara as president.

"I do not recognise the victory of Ouattara.... Why would you want me to sign this?" Gbagbo said in an interview with France`s LCI news channel late Tuesday, referring to a document in which France and the United Nations urge him to quit.
In the same interview, Gbagbo said that while he did not regard himself as "martyr", he was prepared to die. "If death comes, it comes," he said.

France, whose helicopters joined UN forces in attacking Gbagbo`s bases earlier in the week, indicated earlier that an exit deal was all but finalised.
"We have asked the United Nations to guarantee his physical security and that of his family... and to organise the conditions of his departure. That is the only thing left to negotiate," Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told France Info radio.

French armed forces chief Edouard Guillaud said the negotiations had continued overnight and he believed Gbagbo`s departure would come in "a matter of hours."

Guillaud said the strongman had been on the verge of surrender last Friday and again on Monday but had at the last moment changed his mind.
As reports of atrocities emerged from fighting in a western Ivory Coast town last week, the UN said it believed "several hundred" people were killed in massacres and one mass grave had almost 200 bodies.

The mass killings were in the town of Duekoue, seized by Ouattara`s army last week in a lightning offensive across the country.

"It appears that several hundred civilians were killed in at least two separate incidents and many others may have been killed in direct fighting between armed militias," UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

In Abidjan, citizens anxiously awaited news of a possible end to the Gbagbo era, as pro-Ouattara television station TCI played extracts from "Downfall", a film about the final days of Hitler.