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March 13, 2011

Ivory Coast Fighting Spreads to Gbagbo Stronghold

Fighting between supporters of rival leaders in Ivory Coast has spread to a stronghold of Laurent Gbagbo, the incumbent president who refuses to give up power.

Witnesses in the commercial capital of Abidjan reported heavy fighting Monday in Yopougon district, a neighborhood where most residents back Gbagbo.

The incumbent leader has defied international pressure to cede power to Alassane Ouattara, who most nations recognize as the winner of a presidential election in November.

Until now, most of the post-election violence in Abidjan has taken place in neighborhoods loyal to Ouattara.

Meanwhile, pro-Ouattara rebels are pushing further into pro-Gbagbo territory in western Ivory Coast.

The New Forces fighters say they seized the town of Doke over the weekend, making it the fourth Gbagbo stronghold captured in recent weeks.

Ouattara returned to Abidjan late Saturday from an African Union conference in Ethiopia, ignoring warnings by the Gbagbo government that he would not be allowed to re-enter the country.  

The AU has joined the United Nations and most other countries in recognizing Ouattara as the winner of November's election.

Gbagbo insists he won. A top Gbagbo advisor called the AU's recognition of an Ouattara presidency unacceptable.

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