Street battles continue in Abidjan

Ouattara supporters advance on Gbagbo stronghold in Abidjan on another day of heavy fighting in Cote d'Ivoire.

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    Heavy fighting continued on Monday in Abidjan amid an ongoing power struggle between forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo, Cote d'Ivoire's incumbent president, and those backing his political rival Alassane Ouattara.

    Pro-Ouattara fighters were reported to have moved into the Yopougon neighbourhood held by Gbagbo loyalists. Gun battles raged near the home of army chief of staff Phillipe Mangou who has remained loyal to Gbagbo since November's presidential elections. Ouattara is internationally recognised as the winner of that vote.

    The state-run RTI television station denied local reports that Mangou's house had been attacked. A spokesman for the pro-Gbagbo army, Col. Hilaire Gohourou, confirmed that the battle in Yopougon was ongoing, but refused to give any further details.

    Elsewhere in the city, several witnesses reported heavy gunfire which seemed to originate from the central district of Williamsville, home to two large military camps, including the country's biggest gendarmerie camp, the AFP news agency said.

    The fighting comes after Gbagbo supporters launched an assault on Saturday to drive pro-Ouattara fighters out of Abidjan's northern Abobo district.

    A spokesman for Ouattara's government said the insurgents were not under his command or authority, but were acting alone.

    "To my knowledge there is no decree taken by the president (Ouattara) to create a republican force. They are forming naturally ... There is nothing formal," Patrick Achi told the Reuters news agency.

    Three fighters who had participated in last week's battles for PK-18 and Abobo, both in the north of the city, confirmed that they were now pressing south towards Gbagbo's presidential palace.

    "We aren't going to remove Gbagbo by force, that's for the military to do," one fighter, who didn't want to be named, told AP. "We are simply fighting to protect the population from the police, who've been killing indiscriminately."

    More than 400 people have been killed since the elections, and the fresh violence renews the spectre of the deadly civil war from 2002-2003, which divided the country into areas of rebel and government control. Nearly half a million Ivorians fled their homes.

    The African Union (AU) failed this week, in its latest effort, to broker a settlement in a country that was until recently one of West Africa's most stable and prosperous economies, and remains the world's top cocoa grower.

    Allies of Gbagbo, who contends that the results of the poll were rigged, refused to accept an AU proposal for a national unity government led by Ouattara.

    International sanctions such as a ban on European ships using Ivorian ports, together with the near-collapse of the local banking sector, mean supplies of the country's cocoa to world markets have virtually dried up.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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