Heavy fighting near Gbagbo’s residence

2011-04-01 07:23

Abidjan – Heavy fighting broke out near the residence of Laurent Gbagbo overnight in what a resident today described as a possible final assault on Ivory Coast’s strongman.

“There is heavy arms fighting in the area of Gbagbo’s residence,” in the up-market Cocody district in northern Abidjan, one resident told AFP.

Since midnight “the gunfire has been intense and they’re shooting in four or five directions at a time. There’s a lot of people,” he said, adding that he could hear “blasts of heavy weapons”.

Fighting began less than a kilometre from the residence, near the Mermoz university city where support for Gbagbo is strong, and later spread from the area where RTI state television also has its headquarters, he said.

“It looks like a final assault” on Gbagbo, he added.

Two other residents confirmed the firefights in the district.

“Looking out of the window we saw a lot of combatants heading to where the noise of the shooting was coming from,” said a resident who was holed up at his home.

“There was a convoy of 2 000 to 3 000 people on foot and then dozens of cars without their headlights on.”

Gbagbo’s residence is mainly protected by heavily armed members of the elite presidential guard.

A statement issued by the government of internationally recognised leader Alassane Ouattara said earlier that Ivory Coast’s land, sea and air borders had been closed until further notice.

Ouattara’s interior minister Hamed Bakayoko called on Ivorians to “strictly respect” the order.

Ouattara’s government, which now controls most of the country after an offensive against rival Gbagbo, decreed a nightly curfew in Abidjan through to Sunday.

Fear descended on Abidjan yesterday amid sporadic bursts of automatic weapons fire, helicopters circling, barricades dotting the city and looters rampaging in some areas.

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