Thursday 22 February 2018

Ivory Coast leader digs in as forces lay siege to palace

Aislinn Laing in Johannesburg

Laurent Gbagbo, the Ivory Coast leader, defied calls to surrender yesterday as forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognised president, laid siege to the palace where he is thought to be in hiding.

Mr Gbagbo's spokesman said the 65-year-old veteran ruler would never hand over power and denounced the attempt to remove him by force as a "coup d'etat". As heavy weapon fire rang out around Abidjan, the economic capital, and reports circulated of atrocities committed by both sides, the UN warned that anyone killing civilians would be punished under international law.

A UN peacekeeper -- a Swedish woman in her 30s -- was killed after she was apparently hit by a stray bullet. A French teacher was also killed. There were reports of civilians being dragged out of cars and set alight, and about 500 foreigners sought refuge at the headquarters of the French military force in Abidjan.

This week, after months of political deadlock, military chiefs who had backed Mr Gbagbo's claim to power abandoned him, and their troops offered little resistance to members of the New Forces army backing Mr Ouattara, as they seized control of most of the country. A spokesman for Mr Ouattara said Mr Gbagbo's capture was only a matter of time. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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