Friday, April 1, 2011

Rebels circle Ivory Coast president's palace

Forces backing internationally recognized presidential-vote winner battle those loyal to incumbent strongman 

(MSNBC) - ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast — Laurent Gbagbo's 10-year grip on the Ivory Coast seemed on the verge of collapse Friday after fighters encircled both his residence and the presidential palace and battled to unseat the man who has refused to recognize his defeat in last year's election.

Even in the face of a rapid military advance that has swept across Ivory Coast, the world's largest cocoa producer, and arrived at his doorstep, Gbagbo rejected calls to step down. 

Image: Pro-Gbagbo militiamen fight in Abidjan

His aides defiantly said they will never give in, even though nearly 80 percent of the country and now large swaths of its largest city are controlled by an armed group fighting to install the internationally recognized winner of the election, Alassane Ouattara.

"There is no question of ceding," said Gbagbo's presidential aide, Fred Anderson. "It's not up to the international community to impose our leader."

The boom of heavy weapons fire rang out constantly from near Gbagbo's residence and presidential palace, as well as two major military bases — turning Ivory Coast's main city into a war zone.

"We can hear shooting and see soldiers moving but there are also armed civilians running in the streets," said Camara Arnold, a resident of Cocody, the neighborhood that is home to the state television building and Gbagbo's residence.


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