UN, French forces fire on bastions of I Coast's Gbagbo

4th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

UN and French military forces fired on bastions of Ivory Coast's Laurent Gbagbo Monday, a UN spokesman told AFP, as elected president Alassane Ouattara waged an all-out offensive to unseat him.

Helicopters from the UN mission (UNOCI) and French forces fired on military barracks, Gbagbo's home and the presidential palace in the main city Abidjan, UN spokesman Hamadoun Toure said.

"UNOCI helicopters fired on the Agban and Akuedo military camps as well as the palace and presidential residence," he said.

"We are working with the French force Licorne, in line with our mandate and the UN resolution 1975."

"We launched the operation to protect people by putting heavy weapons, used by special forces of Laurent Gbagbo against people and against the UN peacekeepers, out of harm's way," he added.

The UN Security Council resolution adopted March 30 ordered sanctions against Gbagbo in a bid to make him give up power and also said the UN force in the country should act to "prevent the use of heavy weapons."

In recent days a peacekeeper has been killed and many injured as they came under attack from Gbagbo's forces.

An AFP journalist saw four Licorne helicopters firing on the Agban military camp while other witnesses reported UN helicopters shooting on the Akouedo barracks.

The French government confirmed French and UN soldiers were engaged in operations to "neutralise" weapons used against civilians by Gbagbo fighters under resolution 1975.

"The Secretary General of the United Nations (Ban Ki-moon) requested the support of French forces in these operations," it said in a statement.

"The president of the republic (Nicolas Sarkozy) responded positively to this request, and authorised French forces ... to participate in operations conducted by ONUCI (the UN mission in Ivory Coast) aimed at protecting civilians."

"France calls for the immediate cessation of all violence against civilians. The perpetrators of these crimes must be brought to justice," it said.

© 2011 AFP

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