Calm restored in Abidjan after clashes

Forces eased a blockade around the scene of clashes between rival political camps in Abidjan after a night of calm under curfew.

Calm restored in Abidjan after clashes

Forces loyal to Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo eased a blockade on Thursday around the scene of clashes between rival political camps in Abidjan after a night of calm under curfew, witnesses said.

Six policemen were killed in the Abidjan suburb of Abobo on Wednesday in a second day of fighting between security forces loyal to Gbagbo and supporters of rival presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara. Five people died on Tuesday.

Ouattara's parallel government, operating out of a hotel guarded by U.N. peacekeepers, said the forces had killed at least seven civilians in Wednesday's clashes.

But residents heard no gunfire overnight and said the military had left on Thursday morning after a night of calm.

The West African country has been in crisis since a Nov. 28 presidential election that both Ouattara and Gbagbo claim to have won. Ouattara was proclaimed the winner by the electoral commission and is widely regarded by foreign governments as having legitimately won the U.N.-certified poll.

But Gbagbo has refused to step down, with backing from the top court, and still controls the security forces.

Army chief of staff General Philippe Mangou announced a nightly 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew in Abobo, and said troops in armoured vehicles would encircle it.

Early on Thursday he said he had blocked U.N. peacekeepers from entering.

"According to our last report from the field, the head of the (U.N.) operation was turned around and went back," Mangou told journalists after meeting Gbagbo at his residence.

"It was provocative and shameful on their part, because they are supposed to be an impartial force ... to bring us peace, but they have become something else."

The U.N. mission spokesman was not contactable for comment.

A U.N. captain, who could not be named, told Reuters that mission chief Y.J. Choi was in the convoy that was turned away.

Calm night

Residents said Abobo had been calm overnight.

"We didn't hear any gunshots last night. We were scared before going to bed, but there was no shooting," resident Adama Fama said by telephone. "There were a lot of fighting vehicles on patrol and the streets were deserted."

Resident Ladji Bakayoko told Reuters: "The armoured vehicles and military patrols stopped around 6.30 a.m. (0630 GMT). The night was calm compared with Wednesday." But he added: "The people still live in fear in Abobo."

Gbagbo's interior ministry said some of the police who died in Wednesday's clashes had been killed when their vehicle was attacked with rocket-propelled grenades. Mangou said late on Wednesday that the military had been sent in to remove weapons from rebels and armed Ouattara sympathisers.

Gbagbo's relations with the U.N. mission have rapidly deteriorated since Choi recognised Ouattara as winner of the election and persuaded world leaders almost unanimously to do the same, isolating him diplomatically.

Gbagbo has ordered the roughly 10,000 U.N. soldiers and police to leave, but the mission has refused, and the Security Council has approved the despatch of 2,000 more troops.

A U.N. statement said peacekeepers had been slightly wounded when their patrol was ambushed by pro-Gbagbo forces in Abidjan on Tuesday evening.

On Wednesday, pro-Gbagbo forces seized food trucks going to the hotel where Ouattara is besieged, and let their supporters loot them, the U.N. mission said.

More than 200 people have died in violence since the vote, and fear of more conflict has prompted more than 20,000 people to flee into neighbouring Liberia, according to U.N. figures.



Reuters

Last Mod: 13 Ocak 2011, 12:30
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