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UN launches missiles against Ivory Coast strongman

The United Nations launched air attacks last night against Laurent Gbagbo, the Ivory Coast strongman who has refused to relinquish power, in retaliation for "mindless" attacks on its personnel and civilians.

According to witnesses, four missiles were fired from UN helicopters at one of Mr Gbagbo's strongholds in Abidjan, the economic capital.

Choi Young-jin, the UN's special representative in the Ivory Coast, said 11 of its peacekeepers had been wounded by gunshots and its forces were now living "under siege, in a bunker" because of deliberate targeting by Mr Gbagbo's supporters.

Speaking as the army of Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognised victor of November's elections, launched what it promised would be a "rapid assault" on Mr Gbagbo's stronghold, he said the UN did not have the mandate to remove Mr Gbagbo but that it could act to protect itself and civilians.

"We can no longer condone their (Mr Gbagbo's forces) reckless and mindless attacks on civilians and the United Nations blue helmets with heavy weapons," Mr Choi said.

"We will be using our air assets," he added.

A senior Western diplomat said that the UN should disable Mr Gbagbo's heavy weapons, which have been fired into residential districts.

Guillaume Soro, Mr Ouattara's prime minister and commander of the Forces Nouvelles, said Mr Gbagbo's men had begun to "panic" and he was confident the battle could be won within days. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent