French forces evacuate Japan's ambassador in Abidjan
French helicopters carried out an operation on Wednesday night to evacuate the Japanese ambassador, whose Abidjan home was besieged by mercenaries, a source close to the operation told AFP.
Helicopters of the French Licorne (Unicorn) force "responding to a UN request, opened fire in the sector of the residence to allow for the extraction of the Japanese ambassador", the source said.
At least one armoured vehicle was "neutralised" by a shot from Licorne in the barracks of strongman Laurent Gbagbo's republican guard neighbouring the outgoing president's home.
A resident of the area told AFP that during the evening he had heard "at least four" shots from the helicopters.
Japan's ambassador to Ivory Coast Okamura Yoshifumi told AFP earlier Wednesday he and a dozen people were holed up in a room after his home had been attacked by "mercenaries", who fired rockets and cannons from the building.
"Without doubt, they were mercenaries. They entered my residence in the morning shooting RPG (rockets). Myself and about a dozen people are locked in the room which has a bulletproof door," he said.
Yoshifumi's home is in Abidjan's northern suburb of Cocody, where Gbagbo's home is under siege by forces loyal to internationally recognised president Alassane Ouattara, trying to force him to give up power.
"Between 9:00 am and 2:00 pm they fired machine-guns, cannons, RPG from my home. I don't know in which direction they were shooting because we are locked in. It is terrible," said the diplomat.
"There are four people, security agents and the gardener, who have disappeared. There is a lot of blood in the house, bullets everywhere. I don't know if the four are alive.
"They looted, stole everything of value in the house. They left at around 2:00 pm but they are in front of the house. I am afraid they will come back," he said.
© 2011 AFP