Conflict & Justice

UN helicopters attack Gbagbo's compound in Ivory Coast


A fire is seen at the naval base controlled by forces loyal to Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo in Abidjan on April 10, 2011.



ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast — United Nations and French helicopters have fired rockets on the residence of the Ivory Coast Laurent Gbagbo in reprisal attacks for strikes on U.N. peacekeepers, reports said.

Witnesses said two Mi-24 attack helicopters and one French helicopter fire on the compound where the incumbent president is holed up, AP reported. Smoke was seen rising from the building.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he authorized the strikes in retaliation for heavy-weapon attacks against civilians and U.N.. Photographs showed other positions held by Gbagbo's troops have also apparently come under attack, with fires sending plumes of smoke across the Abidjan skyline.

"The continued use of heavy weapons against the civilian population and our peacekeepers, as well as the attack against the Headquarters of the legitimate Government, have compelled me, once again, to instruct [U.N. forces] to use all necessary means to prevent the use of these weapons," he said.

Gbagbo, whose refusal give up on a decade in power after losing an election last November to rival Alassane Ouattara triggered conflict, confirmed the attacks via his advisor in France, AP said.

Gbagbo's troops have launched repeated attacks on U.N. patrols and buildings in recent days after suffering a string of heavy defeats at the hands of Ouattara's forces.

The U.N. secretary-general accused Gbagbo and his supporters of deception, pretending to mull over possible peace negotiations while regrouping for attack. He repeated calls for Gbagbo to "step aside immediately."

Gbagbo has lost control of most of Ivory Coast over the past two weeks as forces loyal to Ouattara made lightning advances.

But while Ouattara's claim on the presidency is backed by the international community, his reputation has suffered in recent days following claims of civilian casualties at the hands of his supporters.

A Human Rights Watch report published over the weekend said his troops were responsible for hundreds of civilian deaths and rape attacks in the west of the country.

Ouattara has promised a full investigation into the claims, reported by the Guardian.

"There are accusations of abuses here and there. Mr Ouattara has said they have to be condemned, whoever did them," his spokesman Guillaume Soro told the paper.

"It has been reported in the west that there was a massacre. There will be an investigation into who did what, be it a group close to Ouattara's forces or Gbagbo's forces. Before this investigation, no conclusions can be drawn."