Ivory Coast battle rages near Gbagbo home

Armed members of elite presidential guard protect Laurent Gbagbo`s residence.

Abidjan: Gunfire erupted around the home of under-siege Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo and the presidential palace on Friday, Abidjan residents said.

"The shooting doesn`t stop. Gbagbo`s men are resisting in all their positions," a resident of the northern suburb of Cocody, where Gbagbo lives, said.

"We are hearing deafening artillery shots, RPG7 (rockets) and machine guns," he said.

Intense fighting between soldiers loyal to the outgoing president and the Army of internationally recognised President Alassane Ouattara, started on Thursday night around 10:00 pm within the perimeter of Gbagbo`s residence.

It was impossible to confirm if Gbagbo was still in his home.

Pro-Ouattara fighters entered Abidjan, the country`s economic capital, on Thursday after sweeping through towns across the country in an all-out offensive against Gbagbo`s regime.

They seized the airport and the state television on Thursday night.

On Friday, fighting continued in the administrative district of Plateau, home to the presidential palace, where the roar of heavy artillery shelling pierced the air.

Incumbent Gbagbo, clinging onto the presidency despite losing elections in November to internationally recognised successor Ouattara, failed to respond to a deadline set by his rival to step down on Thursday and now faces being ousted by force.

The bloody post-election dispute has plunged the world`s top cocoa producer into political and economic crisis, with nearly 500 killed and up to a million having fled their homes as rival forces clash.

Bureau Report