Ivory Coast forces attack to dislodge Gbagbo militia

Last Updated: Wednesday, April 20, 2011 - 22:43

Abidjan: Ivory Coast`s new government
forces attacked to dislodge die-hard militia of deposed
Laurent Gbagbo holed up in Abidjan, causing hundreds of
residents to flee amid heavy gunfire.

Explosions reverberated across the city as President
Alassane Ouattara`s forces pounded the northwestern Yopougon
district, a stronghold of Gbagbo fighters who have refused to
disarm nine days after he was arrested.

Hundreds of frightened residents fled the district
across the lagoon in small boats packed with suitcases and
household items, heading to safer areas of Plateau and
Treichville, an AFP correspondent said.

"Since 4:00 am we have been hearing heavy firing and
loud explosions. We were forced to flee the neighbourhood very
early," a Yopougon resident said.

"An FRCI soldier told us that they had come to
dislodge pro-Gbagbo`s Liberian militia who are still hiding in
Yopougon," said another resident, using the acronym for
Ouattara`s forces.

The FRCI took control of Abidjan after Gbagbo`s April
11 arrest and are trying to secure the city for the new
government to fully exert authority and return normalcy to the
strife-torn country.

But armed groups in Yopougon are still challenging the
new authorities.

"I am waiting for a boat with my four children to sail
across," said an elderly woman who was trying to flee the
militia-held district.

Another resident said: "The walls were shaking, we all

Gbagbo has been placed under house arrest in a secret
location in the north of the country after Ouattara`s forces
captured him with the help of United Nations and French

His refusal to cede power to Ouattara, whom the
international community acknowledged as having won the
disputed November presidential elections, plunged the west
African country into a months-long tense deadlock.

Ouattara`s government this week began exercising power
and yesterday Prime Minister Guillaume Soro held the first
ministerial meeting at the official government office, with
security topping the agenda.

"I think that security has hugely improved since the
first difficult days," Soro told reporters. "The interior
minister informed us that the police have gone back to their
base ... and they are ready for work."

FRCI troops set up checkpoints in the city, stopping
and inspecting vehicles at several intersections.

Negotiations between the new government and militia
willing to disarm have meanwhile been unsuccessful, a defence
ministry source said.

Bureau Report

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First Published: Wednesday, April 20, 2011 - 22:43

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