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Ouattara Forces Attack Gbagbo Home in Ivory Coast

Published on Wednesday 6th April 2011

Forces backing Ivory Coast's internationally recognized president Alassane Ouattara have launched an assault on the home of incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo in a bid to force the strongman to surrender.A Gbagbo spokesman said French forces were attacking the residence in the main city of Abidjan, but French officials denied they were involved in any assault.Gbagbo has been holed up in a bunker surrounded by pro-Ouattara forces as negotiators worked to bring an end to the political crisis.  Gbagbo has said he is not ready to surrender.Earlier, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said the United Nations will continue to pressure Gbagbo, and that the only thing left to discuss is his departure.France's army chief, Edouard Guillaud, said he believed Mr. Gbagbo's departure could come in "a matter of hours."Gbagbo has refused to recognize Ouattara as the winner of the country's November presidential election.  Most countries say Ouattara won the vote.Juppe said France and the United Nations want Gbagbo to sign a document in which he agrees to renounce power and accept Ouattara as president.  The spokesman for the U.N. mission in Ivory Coast, Hamadoun Toure, told VOA that if Mr. Gbagbo wants to surrender, the United Nations would help to protect him. Pro-Ouattara forces swept across Ivory Coast in a lightning offensive that began little more than a week ago.Fighting in Abidjan eased on Tuesday.  The U.N. mission in Ivory Coast said three Gbagbo generals called to say they were ordering troops to lay down their weapons and turn them over to the U.N.  One of the three is Mr. Gbagbo's army chief of staff, Philippe Mangou, who earlier had called for a cease-fire.On Monday, U.N. and French forces attacked Gbagbo military camps, the presidential palace, and his residence.  U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said the attacks were meant to stop Gbagbo forces from using heavy weapons against civilians.Gbagbo supporters said the attacks amounted to an assassination attempt.Hundreds of people have died since the post-election fighting began in December, including many civilians.  A top U.N. human rights official, Ivan Simonovic, arrived in Abidjan Sunday to evaluate the situation.  The U.N. has begun investigating reported mass killings that took place in the western town of Duekoue last week.The U.N. says up to 1 million people have fled their homes since violence began in December.  More than 100,000 have fled to neighboring Liberia, with smaller numbers going to Ghana.Mr. Gbagbo has ruled Ivory Coast since 2000.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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