Ex-Ivorian president breaks off negotiations
THE former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo was under siege last night in a bunker below the presidential residence in Abidjan after he broke off negotiations on his departure from the country.
After many hours of artillery and small-arms fire, forces loyal to his internationally recognised successor appear to have failed to overcome diehard units of the presidential bodyguard.
"They tried to take the Gbagbo residence this morning. The assault failed," a western military source said. "They could not break through the resistance from all the heavy weapons still hidden around Mr Gbagbo's residence. They pulled back to rethink and re-plan."
Senior officers in forces loyal to Mr Gbagbo had accepted defeat yesterday morning after their tanks and artillery were destroyed by United Nations and French forces on Tuesday.
However, Mr Gbagbo broke off negotiations with the UN and Ivorian officials rather than sign a document accepting the internationally recognised victory in elections last November of his rival, Alassane Ouattara.
Forces loyal to Mr Ouattara, involved in bloody street-fighting since they entered Abidjan late last week, began to storm the presidential residence yesterday morning.
Mr Gbagbo's spokesman in Europe claimed that French forces had supplied air and artillery support for the siege, but this was denied by France.
Mr Gbagbo's influential wife, Simone, the couple's daughters and other members of their entourage are believed to be in the bunker with him.