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French Forces Attacked in Ivory Coast


French soldiers from Operation Licorne in the Ivory Coast patrol in the 'Deux Plateaux' district of Abidjan, April 9, 2011

French soldiers from Operation Licorne in the Ivory Coast patrol in the 'Deux Plateaux' district of Abidjan, April 9, 2011

French forces say they have aborted a mission to evacuate diplomats from Ivory Coast's main city, Abidjan, after clashes with forces loyal to incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo.

The military says French helicopters were fired on during the operation, and that French forces fired back, destroying an armored vehicle.

France said earlier that pro-Gbagbo forces shelled the French ambassador's residence Friday.

The United Nations has warned that pro-Gbagbo fighters used a break for peace talks several days ago to reinforce their positions in Abidjan.

U.N. peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy said Friday that since Tuesday's talks, Gbagbo's forces have regained ground in Abidjan, and now fully control the upscale Plateau and Cocody areas.

Forces loyal to the country's internationally recognized president, Alassane Ouattara, have blockaded Gbagbo in the presidential compound in Abidjan, where he is protected by heavy weapons and mercenary troops.

Ouattara's aides say they have concluded Gbagbo cannot be taken alive from his fortified bunker. They said they will leave him there and focus on restoring normalcy in the rest of Ivory Coast.

The group Human Rights Watch says forces loyal to Ouattara killed hundreds of civilians and burned their villages last month, and also raped Gbagbo's supporters. HRW says once Ouattara takes power he should open an impartial probe into the atrocities committed by both sides and bring those responsible to justice.

The United Nations has increased its estimate of the casualty toll from a massacre in the western part of the country. The U.N. human rights office said Friday that investigators had found more than 100 bodies within a 24-hour period.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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