Ivory Coast: Surrounded by Ouattara troops, Gbagbo eyes exit

Last Updated: Wednesday, April 6, 2011 - 00:10

Abidjan: A spokesman for Ivory Coast`s entrenched leader Laurent Gbagbo says his home has been hit at least 50 times by a United Nations Mi-24 helicopter.

Spokesman Don Ahou Mello also confirmed Tuesday that a major military camp had been destroyed during Monday`s attack.

Mello said that Gbagbo "is still in Abidjan" but refused to speculate on whether he was considering resigning.

Fighting raged again Tuesday at the Akban military base, which had been targeted by French and UN forces.

The international force launched the Monday assault after attempts to coax Gbagbo to leave peacefully had been exhausted.

A UN Security Council resolution authorized them to take out Gbagbo`s arsenal, which had been used to attack civilians.

Laurent Gbagbo is negotiating his surrender, a diplomat said after United Nations and French forces bombarded military sites, backing Ivorian fighters who are trying to install the elected president.

The offensive by UN and French forces that began Monday included air attacks on the presidential residence and three strategic military garrisons, marking an unprecedented escalation in the international community`s efforts to oust Gbagbo. He was declared the loser of elections in November but refused to cede power to winner Alassane Ouattara even as the world`s largest cocoa producer teetered on the brink of all-out civil war.

Ivorian fighters loyal to Ouattara had succeeded in taking nearly the entire countryside in just three days last week, but they faltered once they reached Abidjan, country`s largest city where the presidential palace and residence are located.

With the help of international forces, the fighters have pushed their way to the heart of the city to reach Gbagbo`s home. Fighting continued Tuesday morning.

Ouattara`s ambassador to France said Gbagbo is negotiating his surrender.

Ali Coulibaly did not provide any details in the interview Tuesday with France Info radio or say where he got the information.

"I`m not trying to be demagogical or to add to the disinformation, but according to the information that I have, he`s negotiating his surrender because he has realized the end is near. The game is up," Coulibaly said.

A senior diplomat who could not be named because of the sensitivity of the matter said he has a map with blue stickers marking the six strategic points that needed to be taken out, and that five of the six had been hit by early Tuesday.

The five include Gbagbo`s residence where heavy weaponry was destroyed, the republican guard, state TV, the Akban paramilitary base, and the arms depot at Akouedo which the diplomat said were bombarded by UN Mi-24 helicopters. A video posted on YouTube showed the depot being bombed, with spectacular secondary explosions occurring and possible outgoing fire seeking out the raiding aircraft.

At Gbagbo`s residence, the troops have created a perimeter around the building, waiting to see if he would come out or respond. Ouattara`s adviser said that he had been told Gbagbo had created a bunker inside his residence, locked from within.

UN peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy briefed the Security Council about the action in Ivory Coast on Monday and said international forces had targeted areas around the presidential palace where Gbagbo`s forces were using heavy weaponry.

"There is no point to firing at the presidential palace if there are no heavy weapons," he said. "But we are seeing the heavy weapons very close and that is what we are firing on."

Postelection violence has left hundreds dead — most of them Ouattara supporters — and has forced up to 1 million people to flee. Ouattara has used his considerable international clout to financially and diplomatically suffocate Gbagbo and pro-Ouattara forces before launching a dramatic military assault last week.

On Monday, the UN fired on the Akouedo military base at around 5 p.m. local time (1700 GMT) to prevent Gbagbo`s forces from using heavy weapons against civilians, said the spokesman for the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations Nick Birnback.

Explosions resonated from the city`s downtown core a few blocks from the presidential palace and near the base of the republican guard, and those living nearby barricaded their windows with mattresses. Flames could be seen licking the sky above the home of the staunchly pro-Gbagbo republican guard.

Just after the UN announced their attack, a resident in the Cocody neighborhood where Gbagbo lives in Abidjan said he saw multiple helicopters circling and could hear firing. Others said they heard what sounded like fighter jets.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a statement that he had authorized the 1,600-strong French Licorne force based here to help in the operation following an appeal from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who said that the use of force was necessary to prevent further attacks on civilians.

Ivory Coast gained independence from France in 1960, and some 20,000 French citizens still lived there when a brief civil war broke out in 2002. French troops were then tasked by the UN with monitoring a cease-fire and protecting foreign nationals in Ivory Coast, which was once an economic star and is still one of the only countries in the region with four-lane highways, skyscrapers, escalators and wine bars.

Postelection violence has left hundreds dead — most of them Ouattara supporters — and has forced up to 1 million people to flee. Ouattara has used his considerable international clout to financially and diplomatically suffocate Gbagbo and pro-Ouattara forces before launching a dramatic military assault last week.

On Monday, the UN fired on the Akouedo military base at around 5 p.m. local time (1700 GMT) to prevent Gbagbo`s forces from using heavy weapons against civilians, said the spokesman for the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations Nick Birnback.

Explosions resonated from the city`s downtown core a few blocks from the presidential palace and near the base of the republican guard, and those living nearby barricaded their windows with mattresses. Flames could be seen licking the sky above the home of the staunchly pro-Gbagbo republican guard.

Just after the UN announced their attack, a resident in the Cocody neighborhood where Gbagbo lives in Abidjan said he saw multiple helicopters circling and could hear firing. Others said they heard what sounded like fighter jets.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a statement that he had authorized the 1,600-strong French Licorne force based here to help in the operation following an appeal from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who said that the use of force was necessary to prevent further attacks on civilians.

Ivory Coast gained independence from France in 1960, and some 20,000 French citizens still lived there when a brief civil war broke out in 2002. French troops were then tasked by the UN with monitoring a cease-fire and protecting foreign nationals in Ivory Coast, which was once an economic star and is still one of the only countries in the region with four-lane highways, skyscrapers, escalators and wine bars.



First Published: Wednesday, April 6, 2011 - 00:10

More from zeenews

 
comments powered by Disqus