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Saturday, April 2, 2011
International

Battle for Abidjan rages around presidential palace

AU urges strongman to quit immediately, Gbagbo alleges coup

Alassane Ouattara and Laurent Gbagbo after election on October 27, 2010

Gunfire erupted around the home of under-siege Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo and the presidential palace yesterday, Abidjan residents and AFP journalists reported.

"The shooting doesn't stop. Gbagbo's men are resisting in all their positions," a resident of the nothern suburb of Cocody, where Gbagbo lives, told AFP.

"We are hearing deafening artillery shots, RPG7 (rockets) and machine guns," he said.

The African Union urged strongman Laurent Gbagbo to step down immediately in favour of internationally recognised president Alassane Ouattara.

AU Commission Chairman Jean Ping "urges Laurent Gbagbo to immediately hand over power to President Alassane Dramane Ouattara in order to shorten the suffering of the Ivorian people," a statement said.

But Gbagbo has no intention of quitting despite being under attack by forces loyal to his rival which he brands a "coup d'etat", his representative in Paris said yesterday.

"President Laurent Gbagbo has no intention of abdicating or giving himself up to any rebel at all," said Toussaint Alain, a close ally of Gbagbo who acts as his Europe spokesman in Paris.

"He is facing a post-electoral coup d'etat by Alassane Ouattara who is supported by an international coalition."

Ouattara's ambassador in Paris, Ally Coulibaly, said Thursday that Gbagbo will not be hurt if he gives himself up to his opponents' forces.

Intense fighting between soldiers loyal to the outgoing president and the army of internationally recognised president Alassane Ouattara, started Thursday night around 10:00 pm within the perimeter of Gbagbo's residence.

It was impossible to confirm if Gbagbo was still in his home.

Pro-Ouattara fighters entered Abidjan, the country's economic capital, Thursday after sweeping through towns across the country in an all-out offensive against Gbagbo's regime.

They seized the airport and the state television on Thursday night.

Yesterday fighting continued in the administrative district of Plateau, home to the presidential palace, where the roar of heavy artillery shelling pierced the air.

Incumbent Gbagbo failed to respond to a deadline set by his rival to step down on Thursday and now faces being ousted by force.

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