Ouattara forces fight Gbagbo loyalists, seize state TV station

Updated: 2011-04-02 07:51

By Loucoumane Coulibaly and Tim Cocks (China Daily)

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Ouattara forces fight Gbagbo loyalists, seize state TV station

Guillaume Soro, Cote d'Ivoire presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara's prime minister, addresses troops in Yamoussoukro, the country's capital, on Thursday. Ouattara said incumbent Laurent Gbagbo had just hours left in power. Emmanuel Braun / Reuters

ABIDJAN, Cote d'Ivoire - Presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara's forces battled loyalists of incumbent Laurent Gbagbo on Friday after attacking his Abidjan residence and seizing control of Cote d'Ivoire's state television, a Ouattara spokesman said.

A military source in Gbagbo's camp confirmed the attack overnight on Gbagbo's residence but said that pro-Gbagbo forces were still putting up resistance at the state broadcaster, RTI. Residents in the area confirmed heavy fighting.

Loyalists of the internationally recognized president entered the city on Thursday after a swift offensive south aimed at ousting Gbagbo, who has refused to cede power since a Nov 28 election, which UN-certified results showed that he lost.

Fighting between the rival factions raged for hours on Thursday and heavy weapons fire rang out in the center of the commercial capital of the world's top cocoa producer.

"The shooting is so loud that the earth is shaking due to the explosions," a resident told Reuters by telephone overnight from an area near the fighting.

"Fighting is still going on all around Gbagbo's residence," Ouattara spokesman Patrick Achi told Reuters, hours after he said that pro-Ouattara forces attacked.

Achi said that he didn't know if Gbagbo was still inside but overnight he said that Gbagbo was there and looked like fighting on. "(Gbagbo) hasn't shown any signs of giving up. I don't think he will see the game is up, because he really believes God will save him," he added.

A military source in Gbagbo's camp confirmed the attack, adding that Gbagbo's bodyguards were fighting back.

Residents said that the state broadcaster remained off air. It stopped transmitting on Thursday after repeatedly showing images of Gbagbo and his close entourage. Gbagbo has been due to speak on state media for days.

"(State broadcaster) RTI is taken, it's off air. It is under control," Achi said, adding a statement would be made later.

The military source, who asked not to be identified, confirmed that the gendarmerie had abandoned their positions but said that the pro-Gbagbo Republican Guard and armed students were still fighting to defend the state broadcaster early on Friday. The state television building is close to Gbagbo's residence in the leafy neighborhood of Cocody.

The US government said Gbagbo had been "significantly" weakened by defections and the disintegration of his forces and Ouattara called on the remaining Gbago loyalists to give up.

At least 494 people have been confirmed killed since the standoff began, according to the United Nations, but, given the scale of fighting, the real figure is likely to be much higher.



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