Africa
Gbagbo forces attack Ouattara base in Abidjan
Troops backing Cote d'Ivoire's incumbent leader step up counter attack on rival's forces.
Last Modified: 09 Apr 2011 22:25
Human Rights Watch accuses both Gbagbo and Ouattara's forces of killings and rights abuses [Reuters]

Forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo, Cote d'Ivoire's incumbent president, have fired mortars at the hotel where the Ivorian leader's internationally recognised rival is based.

The Golf Hotel, where Alassane Ouattara has been living protected by UN peacekeepers since last year's disputed polls, came under attack on Saturday.

"We have confirmation from one of Ouattara's [aides] that this attack did take place," Haru Mutasa, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Abidjan, reported.

"We aren't sure how many pro-Gbagbo forces were involved, but we do know that UN [peacekeepers] guarding the hotel managed to push them [Gbagbo's forces] back."

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Hamadoun Toure, a UN spokesman, confirmed the attack.

"This was not a fight, but a direct attack by Gbagbo's forces, who fired RPGs [rocket propelled grenades] and mortar rounds, from positions near Gbagbo's residence, at the Golf Hotel," he said.

Gbagbo himself has been holed up in a bunker in Abidjan, days after Ouattara's forces overran his residence amid fierce fighting.

But Gbagbo's forces later hit back, regaining ground in Abidjan and the attack on the Golf hotel appeared to be a further counter attack.

"Some one is rearming Gbagbo, we don't know who, it could be an outside country,  and if that is the case then it is a very very worrying situation for the civilians," added our correspondent.

"Civilians are bracing for a long and bloody battle."

Alain Le Roy, the head of the UN peacekeeping force in the country, said earlier that Gbagbo's forces had used a lull for peace talks as a "trick" to reinforce their positions and were now in full control of the upscale Plateau and Cocody areas of the captial.

He said that Gbagbo's troops still had heavy weapons, though UN and French forces had destroyed some of them, Le Roy.

"We have seen heavy weapons to be transferred to the Cocody area, including this morning," Le Roy said on Friday, referring to photographs of M-21 rocket launchers, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and armoured personnel carriers.

Toussaint Alain, a Gbagbo spokesman, denied that the incumbent president's forces had access to heavy weapons.

'Utterly horrifying'

Gbagbo has refused to quit as president of Cote d'Ivoire, plunging the west African nation into conflict, despite being understood to have lost to Ouattara in last year's election.

Results from the electoral commission showed Ouattara emerging with the most votes after the November 28 poll, but the Constitutional Council nullified the vote and declared Gbagbo the winner.

The battle for Abidjan

 
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The international community - including the United Nations, the African Union and ECOWAS, the economic bloc in west Africa - have all recognised Ouattara as the legally elected president.

At least 400 Ivorians have been killed in fighting between the two sides and tens of thousands have sought refuge in neighbouring Liberia, according to the UN.

The Catholic charity Caritas said on Sunday that more than 1,000 civilians had been killed in the town of Duekoue and blamed Ouattara's troops for the violence.

Since Friday, UN forces have found more than 100 bodies in several towns - some burned alive and others thrown down wells.

Navi Pillay, the UN human rights commissioner, said that the reports she was receiving from UN teams in the country were "utterly horrifying", but that due to the security situation the UN had not been able to fully assess the extent of alleged violations.

Human Rights Watch, the New York-based rights watchdog, accused both Ouattara's and Gbagbo's forces of killing rivals.

The group specifically accused Ouattara's forces of killing or raping hundreds of people and burning villages during an offensive in late March.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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