Thousands were killed as Ivory Coast tipped toward civil war after Gbagbo refused to cede power to Ouattara [Reuters]

Dozens of people have reportedly been killed in the main city of Abidjan in fighting between Ivory Coast troops and the remnants of a militia loyal to deposed leader Laurent Gbagbo.

"We have seen many dead. We recovered 40 bodies over two hours, but we were forced to stop because he had no room left in our van," said Franck Kodjo, an official at the International Committee of the Red Cross, adding at least five corpses were from Tuesday's fighting.

A commander for the Ivorian army, known as the FRCI, said the remaining pro-Gbagbo fighters in the Abidjan neighbourhood of Yopougon were mostly Liberian mercenaries hired in the aftermath of the November election dispute.

"We are in the process of securing the town but there are heavy weapons," the commander said. "We're not the ones firing them, it is those we oppose, the Liberians," he said.

Security slow to return

Tuesday's clashes highlight the West African country's struggle to restore security after a violent power struggle between Gbagbo and his rival Alassane Ouattara, who won a November election and is now president.

The world's largest cocoa grower nation tipped toward civil war after Gbagbo refused to cede power to Ouattara, triggering a conflict that killed thousands and displaced more than a million people and only began to ease with Gbagbo's arrest last month.

Other parts of  Abidjan were coming back to life after the conflict, with banks reopening and street traffic slowly returning to normal.

Ivory Coast's main industry, the cocoa sector, is poised to resume exports by the end of this week .

There is a backlog of nearly half a million tonnes of beans, exporters said on Tuesday.

Ouattara's government is investigating Gbagbo and his inner circle for alleged human rights abuses during the conflict as he used his military to cling to power.

Gbagbo, under house arrest in the country's north, has called on his supporters to allow the country to restart its economy in peace.

Source: Reuters