Monday, April 11, 2011

Côte d'Ivoire: French helicopters fired on the residence of Gbagbo

Helicopters from the UN mission in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) and French Licorne forces have fired on Sunday tanks inside the presidential palace and near the residence of the incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo in Abidjan. "We take the operation to neutralize the heavy weapons wherever they are. UNOCI and Licorne have begun to target targets in several places, especially near the presidential palace and near the presidential residence," said spokesman Hamadoun Toure UNOCI.

The shootings have targeted as "camps where recognition exercises have identified heavy weapons," he added without giving further details. "Over the past three or four days, there was a use of heavy weapons against civilians and peacekeepers. The firing against the head of UNOCI continued, hence the need to react to protect civilians in accordance with our mandate, "he added.

Indeed, earlier, heavy gunfire were heard near the presidential palace in Abidjan. "It started about 12 h 30 (local time) in our area and it resumed a few minutes to 14 hours. We heard heavy explosions of heavy weapons and automatic weapons. We do not know what happens "said a local resident of the Plateau (center), where the palace.

"There was sporadic gunfire in recent days but this time it is much stronger," said another resident. Plateau and Cocody are largely controlled by forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo, who beat them hard against those of Alassane Ouattara. Saturday, the Golf Hotel, close to where Mr Ouattara Cocody and his government are reclusive since the beginning of the post-election crisis there are more than four months, has been under fire, including mortars.

Civilians fled the area Sunday, where calm had returned according to testimony. "It was terrible, if you heard it, you can not stay here," a resident told. The spokesman of Mr. Gbagbo, Ahoua Don Mello, had strongly denied any responsibility in this "imaginary attack," adding that "President Gbagbo called for resistance against the bombing and the actions of the French army in Cote d'Ivoire, because ultimately it is the French army that is attacking us.

" French lawyers of Mr. Ouattara, Jean-Paul Benoit and Jean-Pierre Mignard, published Sunday in Paris a text urging the UN and France to "immediately remove heavy weapons, neutralize the militias in the pay of Gbagbo constitute an illegal occupation force, and bring to justice the defeated candidate.

" The text, sent to the French presidency and the UN, was written at their initiative, but "with the agreement of Mr. Ouattara" in which he was subjected, said to Mr. Benoit. For lawyers, such an intervention "is the spirit and letter of Resolution 1975 of the Security Council of 25 March, which called in particular to use" all necessary measures "to protect civilians and prevent the use of heavy weapons against civilian populations.

France, whose military force Licorne is the Abidjan airport, south of the city, and the UN have always maintained they had no mandate to overthrow Mr. Ggbabo. UNOCI had warned Friday that forces loyal to the outgoing president, who refuses to recognize the results certified by the United Nations giving his rival the winner of the presidential election, took advantage of a lull to "strengthen their positions." The U.S.

State Department has also held Saturday that "attempts to negotiate this week from Laurent Gbagbo were nothing but a ploy to regroup and rearm. Alassane Ouattara to those trying to secure the rest of the economic capital, whose population at the outbreak of fighting on March 31 was valued at four million inhabitants and is on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe.

Water and electricity are cut off in some areas, food shortage, hospitals are overwhelmed and corpses dumped in the streets, while whole neighborhoods were plunged into anarchy and looting delivered. The Licorne force, whose numbers were increased to about 1,650 men, with difficulty continues its mission of securing and consolidating foreigners.

It can not access certain areas and is regularly under fire fighters Gbagbo camp. The organization of human rights Human Rights Watch on Saturday accused the forces of both sides have committed massacres in western Ivory Coast, an area known to be regularly the scene of ethnic violence, claiming possession of new evidence these atrocities already denounced by the UN and NGOs.

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