[QODLink]
Africa
Pro-Ouattara forces claim Cote d'Ivoire town
Ouattara supporters say they now control Duekoue, a key cocoa industry town, after fierce fighting with Gbagbo forces.
Last Modified: 28 Mar 2011 14:54
Cote d'Ivoire has been in turmoil since November's vote, which both Gbagbo and Ouattara claim to have won [Reuters]

Fierce fighting has broken out in Cote d'Ivoire's western town of Duekoue between forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo, the incumbent president, and his internationally recognised rival, Alassane Ouattara, residents and combatants say.

Rebels who took control of the north of the country during the 2002-3 civil war and are now backing Ouattara said on Monday they had taken Duekoue, which has been under Gbagbo's control for nearly a decade.

Duekoue lies in a region that produces around 250,000 tonnes of cocoa a year in the west African nation, which is the world's top grower.

"The town of Duekoue has been under our control since 7am (0700 GMT). We are conducting search operations throughout," said Lacine Mara, a spokesman for pro-Ouattara forces in the west.

Gbagbo's forces confirmed the fighting, but said they remained in control of at least part of the town.

"Our men have been in combat since about 2am (0200 GMT) this morning with the rebels, who tried to take the town. We control one part and they control the other," said Yao Yao, operations chief of Gbagbo's Front for the Liberation of the Great West (FLGO) militia.

A Reuters reporter in the main city of Abidjan also reported shooting and heavy arms fire on Monday, from areas where pro-Ouattara fighters seeking to oust Gbagbo are pushing towards the city centre.

Thousands displaced

Cote d'Ivoire has been in turmoil since last November's disputed elections, with security forces backing Gbagbo regularly clashing with Ouattara's supporters, mostly rebels calling themselves the Republican Forces.

The UN estimates more than 400 people have been killed since the election and up to one million have been driven from their homes. Tens of thousands of people have had to seek refuge in neighbouring Liberia and Ghana.

Gbagbo insists he won the election though the United Nations, the African Union and ECOWAS, the west African economic grouping, recognise Ouattara as the winner. He remains holed up in an Abidjan hotel, protected by a ring of UN peacekeepers.

Monday's fighting came only days after Ouattara rejected an African Union-appointed envoy from the island nation of Cape verde to mediate the crisis, saying the appointee has personal ties with Gbagbo.
   
Pro-Ouattara forces have already seized four towns in the west and Gbagbo's forces fear that if they capture enough important towns, they will be able to march south to the port of San Pedro, which ships about half of Cote d'Ivoire's cocoa crop.

"The rebels want to take Duekoue and Guiglo so they can easily descend on San Pedro," Yao Yao said. "We won't let them."

Last week, around 15,000 pro-Gbagbo youths turned up at the army's headquarters to enlist, raising fears that all-out civil war is now unavoidable.

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
At least 25 tax collectors have been killed since 2012 in Mogadishu, a city awash in weapons and abject poverty.
Tokyo government claims its homeless population has hit a record low, but analysts - and the homeless - beg to differ.
3D printers can cheaply construct homes and could soon be deployed to help victims of catastrophe rebuild their lives.
Lack of child protection laws means abandoned and orphaned kids rely heavily on the care of strangers.
Featured
Booming global trade in 50-million-year-old amber stones is lucrative, controversial, and extremely dangerous.
Legendary Native-American High Bird was trained in ancient warrior traditions, which he employed in World War II.
Hounded opposition figure says he's hoping for the best at sodomy appeal but prepared to return to prison.
Fears of rising Islamophobia and racial profiling after two soldiers killed in separate incidents.
Group's culture of summary justice is back in Northern Ireland's spotlight after new sexual assault accusations.