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Fighting Continues in Ivorian Commercial Capital as Civilians Flee


People fearing for their safety evacuate the Abobo district of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, February 24, 2011

People fearing for their safety evacuate the Abobo district of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, February 24, 2011

Sporadic fighting continues Thursday in Ivory Coast's commercial capital between supporters of the country's rival presidents. African Union heads of state are expected to announce their plans for ending the political crisis in the next five days.

Gunfire continued in Abidjan's Abobo neighborhood for a sixth day, as more civilians fled fighting between supporters of the United-Nations-certified winner of November's vote and soldiers who are still loyal to the incumbent president.

Nearly 20 people have been killed in the commercial capital over the last few days, including 10 soldiers who authorities say were killed in an ambush. The United Nations mission in Ivory Coast is condemning what it calls "inappropriate" force, especially the use of heavy weapons. The U.N. is urging both sides to show restraint amid efforts to find a peaceful solution to the post-electoral crisis.

African Union heads of state met earlier this week with both incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo and former prime minister Alassane Ouattara.

The African Union panel of heads of state from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, South Africa, and Tanzania have until Monday to decide how best to end this standoff - a decision that the African Union says will be legally binding on all Ivorians.

But the African Union has no mechanism for enforcing its decisions.

Gbagbo's government says it will accept the African Union decision only if it does not challenge the legitimacy of a constitutional council finding that says Gbagbo won.

Ouattara says he is pessimistic about the African Union mediation because past efforts have failed to convince Gbagbo to give up power in accordance with electoral commission results that show Ouattara won the vote. Ouattara's prime minister says Ivorians should expect nothing from the African Union and should instead rise up in an Egyptian-style revolt to drive Gbagbo from power.

The U.N. says nearly 300 people have died since November's election. Human Rights Watch says the African Union mediation should work to end what it calls "gross violations of human rights" by security forces that it says are targeting Ouattara supporters.





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