Gbagbo forces descend on Ivory Coast neighbourhood

2011-01-11 13:09

Abidjan – Security forces loyal to incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo today opened fire as they drove through a neighbourhood of supporters of Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognised winner of the elections.

The UN peacekeeping force sent nine vehicles to the scene, where dozens of young men had erected a roadblock out of a table and sticks. The peacekeepers turned around and started leaving the area.

The military trucks arrived in the neighbourhood hours after residents described attacking two officers who had been conducting raids in the area known as PK 18.

The district overwhelmingly voted for Alassane Ouattara, who the UN said won the November 28 election.

Gbagbo, who refuses to cede power despite mounting international pressure and a possible regional military ouster, maintains control of the country’s military.

 Human rights groups accuse his security forces of abducting and killing hundreds of political opponents since the vote.

Marco Boubacar, head of the New Forces rebels who are allied to Ouattara, said people attacked the police officers with their bare hands.

“We were able to take down two men in uniform,” he said.

The two deaths could not be independently confirmed, but other witnesses said they also had seen the police officers’ bodies.

The area is not far from the site where Charles Ble Goude, the leader of a pro-Gbagbo youth group, is expected to hold a rally today. Some describe the hardline Young Patriots as an armed militia.

Goude, who was placed on a United Nations sanctions list in 2006 for his role in inciting violence, has been leading daily rallies, gathering thousands of pro-Gbagbo youth to warn that there will be no peace if Gbagbo is forced out.

“They shouldn’t kid themselves and imagine that they can come and remove (Gbagbo) like some sort of orphan ... because in every Ivorian there is a Gbagbo,” Goude said in a sit-down interview yesterday. “Do they want to govern an Ivory Coast cemetery?”

Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency said 25 000 Ivorian civilians had now fled to neighbouring Liberia since the disputed election.

A spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said 600 more refugees were arriving in Liberia daily.

Adrian Edwards told reporters in Geneva that the United Nations was setting up a refugee camp for 18 000 people in the eastern Liberian town of Bahn. 

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