Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Ivory Coast: Besieged Gbagbo 'in basement' of residence

The BBC's Andrew Harding watched pro-Ouattara fighters head into Abidjan
Ivory Coast's defiant President Laurent Gbagbo is sheltering with his family in the basement of his surrounded Abidjan residence, a senior military source has told the BBC.
Troops loyal to Mr Gbagbo's rival, UN-recognised President Alassane Ouattara, say they have surrounded the compound.
Pro-Ouattara forces said earlier they had already overrun the residence in the West African country's main city.
UN and French helicopters attacked targets around the compound on Monday.
Mr Gbagbo has refused to leave office even though the Ivorian election commission declared him the loser of November's run-off vote, and the UN certified the result.
The BBC's Andrew Harding has spoken to a senior military source on the western edge of Abidjan, where hundreds of pro-Ouattara troops are gathered.
The source told our correspondent they had completely surrounded the presidential residence and that Mr Gbagbo and his family were in the bunker. The claim is unconfirmed.
Mr Gbagbo's spokesman told AFP news agency the incumbent president had not reached the point of surrender.
But Mr Ouattara's representative in Paris, Ali Coulibaly, told French media earlier that Mr Gbagbo was negotiating his exit.

Ivory Coast: Battle for power

  • World's largest cocoa producer
  • Once a haven of peace in West Africa
  • Ouattara recognised as president-elect in 2010
  • International sanctions imposed to force out Gbagbo
  • Hundreds killed, one million have fled
  • 9,000 UN peacekeepers monitor 2003 ceasefire
Forces loyal to Mr Ouattara, a former International Monetary Fund economist, began a dramatic military offensive last week, sweeping in from the north and west.
About four million civilians have been trapped by days of fighting and looting in Abidjan.
Patrick Achi, a spokesman for Mr Ouattara, told the BBC earlier that if Mr Gbagbo were captured, he would be arrested and "brought to justice".
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the raids launched on Monday evening against Mr Gbagbo's arsenal were to stop attacks on civilians.
UN Mi-24 helicopters are reported to have bombarded five targets: Mr Gbagbo's residence, a republican guard base, state television headquarters, the Akban paramilitary base and the Akouedo arms depot.
UN peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy said that a UN Security Council resolution authorised such action.
The use and calibre of heavy weapons by Gbagbo forces had, he said, escalated sharply in recent days.
The UN mission in Ivory Coast (Unoci) had also been under almost continuous attack, he said.
A resident in Abidjan says his house shook as the UN and French bombing raids took place
Mr Gbagbo's spokesman told AFP news agency that the incumbent president had been "surprised" by the attacks, as he was still open to dialogue.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a statement he had authorised the 1,600-strong French Licorne force in the country to help the UN military response.
Ivory Coast gained independence from France in 1960, but has hosted French peacekeepers since its civil war almost a decade ago.
The French military says it has about 1,900 foreigners under its protection in Abidjan, and nearly 450 others have already left the country.
The UN has sent an envoy to investigate a massacre of hundreds of civilians in the western town of Duekoue last week.
Each side has blamed the other for the killings, which the International Committee of the Red Cross says claimed at least 800 lives.
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