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Pro-Gbagbo Militants Continue Protests in Ivory Coast


Militant supporters of Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo are staging a second day of protests against a recommendation by international mediators to dissolve parliament. Militants manned barricades in the commercial capital, Abidjan, and invaded a U.N. peacekeeper base in another southern city.

Angry supporters of President Laurent Gbagbo remained in the streets of Abidjan Tuesday afternoon, a day after one of Ivory Coast's main youth leaders called for an end to protests.

One student manning a barricade in the Abidjan neighborhood of Cocody, Urbain Zege, said just because one man said to return home does not mean he speaks for everyone.

"Who has talked yesterday night? You know that in Cote d'Ivoire there are many, many, many organizations. The one who spoke yesterday night is responsible for one organizations among many, many others. So, our organization does not say that we have to stop the movement. So, we are in the streets until they decide to stop," Zege said.

The head of the pro-Gbagbo student union known as FESCI, Serge Koffi, in an address broadcast on state television Monday night, said his supporters should leave the streets.

However, militants began massing around the headquarters of the U.N. peacekeeping mission during the day Monday. And, by mid-morning Tuesday, several hundred pro-Gbagbo militants, known as Young Patriots, had blocked the entrance to the French embassy as well.

The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast says around 1,000 Young Patriots invaded a base manned by Bangladeshi peacekeepers in the city of Guiglo Tuesday afternoon. The mission says there had been no violence at the camp, and protesters were staging a sit-in. But the protests have led to several instances of violence in Abidjan, says the head of the U.N.s communications team in Ivory Coast, Margherita Amodeo.

"The situation in Abidjan is very similar to the one we had yesterday," said Amodeo. "There's a crowd of Young Patriots outside the U.N. building as we speak, and it's a growing crowd. We had an attack on a U.N. convoy this morning shortly before 7 a.m."

Amodeo said four U.N. vehicles were heavily damaged in the incident.

Several U.N. vehicles were attacked Sunday as members of the U.N.-backed International Working Group on Ivory Coast were meeting at an Abidjan hotel. In a statement read late Sunday, the mediation team recommended dissolving the National Assembly.

The mandate of the body, which is dominated by supporters of the president, expired in December.

Demonstrators erected barricades and blocked major streets in Abidjan beginning early Monday in protest.

The leader of a pro-Gbagbo militia, known as the GPP, Moussa Toure Zeguen says more demonstrations are on the way in the hours and days to come.

"What we are preparing now is really a big mobilization of our soldiers, because we are sure, what we are preparing is to fight for our real liberation. The Ivorian people must take their destiny in their own hands," he said.

The U.N. special representative in Ivory Coast, Pierre Schori, was meeting with President Gbagbo Tuesday afternoon in an attempt to calm the situation. Public demonstrations in Abidjan have been officially banned by presidential decree since December 2004.

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