UN, French forces fire on pro-Gbagbo bastions in Abidjan

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The UN mission in Ivory Coast and French military forces fired on strongman Laurent Gbagbo's bastions in Abidjan Monday as his rival waged an all-out offensive to unseat him, a UN spokesman told AFP.

As internationally recognised president Alassane Ouattara's troops marched on the economic capital Monday afternoon, the UNOCI mission and French Licorne (Unicorn) forces helicopters fired on military barracks, Gbagbo's home and the presidential palace.

"UNOCI helicopters fired on the Agban and Akuedo military camps as well as the palace and presidential residence," said UN spokesman Hamadoun Toure.

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

An AFP journalist witnessed 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 UN Security Council resolution 1975.

The objectives of the military action was not outlined in further detail.

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

© 2011 AFP

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