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Côte d'Ivoire

Gbagbo's forces regain ground in Abidjan

Reuters/Emmanuel Braun
2 min

The French army was forced to abort a mission to evacuate foreign diplomats from Abidjan on Saturday, after coming under fire from forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo, who is fighting to retain the presidency against Alassane Ouattara. The UN has warned that Gbagbo’s forces are regaining ground in the city.

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French soldiers began the evacuation in the early hours of Saturday morning. Their helicopters destroyed an armoured vehicle belonging to pro-Gbagbo fighters, who fired on the French troops.

The operation was abandoned after officials judged that “security conditions were insufficient”, according to a French army spokesperson.

A total of 23 countries have asked for help evacuating diplomats from Côte d’Ivoire. UN and French forces cleared several embassies on Friday and several more, including the US, German and Brazilian embassies, are awaiting assistance.

France said its ambassador’s residence came under fire from positions held by Gbagbo’s forces on Friday. Gbagbo's camp denied the claim.

The UN said on Friday that Gbagbo’s troops still have heavy weapons in Abidjan. His forces have used a lull in fighting to reinforce their position in the city, said the UN’s head of peacekeeping, Alain Le Roy, saying that they were now just one kilometre from the headquarters of Gbagbo’s rival Alassane Ouattara.

Gbagbo himself is understood to have retreated to a bunker at his residence in Abidjan. It is surrounded by pro-Ouattara forces.

Meanwhile the UN says it has found evidence of atrocities committed elsewhere in the country.

Since Thursday its investigators report finding 118 bodies in western Côte d’Ivoire, in an area that Ouattara’s forces passed through on their way to Abidjan. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called the findings “utterly horrifying”.

Campaign group Human Rights Watch accuses both sides of abuses. It claims Ouattara’s supporters summarily raped and executed during their offensive in the west of the country, while Gbagbo’s forces are accused of massacring more than 100 civilians at the end of March.

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