Print options

April 09, 2011

Gbagbo Forces Deny Attacking UN, Ouattara Compound

by Scott Stearns

Forces loyal to Ivory Coast's incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo say they are not responsible for Saturday's attack on a hotel housing the country's internationally-recognized leader. The United Nations and the United States say Gbagbo's forces used a ceasefire last week to regroup and rearm.

Gbagbo's government says its forces were not behind the mortar attack on Abidjan's Golf Hotel where internationally-recognized president Alassane Ouattara is guarded by more than 300 United Nations peacekeepers.

Gbagbo spokesman Ahoua Don Mello is calling on Ivorian citizens to resist French forces in Abidjan, who he said launched a "barbaric attack" last week along with pro-Ouattara fighters and U.N. peacekeepers.

French and U.N. helicopters attacked Gbagbo heavy weapons positions at the presidential compound and the main military barracks last Monday. Pro-Ouattara fighters were unable to dislodge Gbagbo from an underground bunker at the presidential residence and say they will now leave him there and concentrate on securing the rest of the city.

But the head of U.N. peacekeeping says nearly 1,000 Gbagbo fighters are regaining ground in downtown Abidjan and in the Cocody neighborhood around the presidential compound after using last Tuesday's ceasefire to reinforce their positions.

The U.S. State Department says it is clear that last week's attempt to negotiate Gbagbo's surrender was nothing more than a ruse to regroup and rearm. State Department spokesman Mark Toner says Gbagbo's continued efforts to force a result that he could not obtain at the ballot box show what he calls a "callous disregard for the welfare of the Ivorian people, who will again suffer amid renewed heavy fighting in Abidjan."

Gbagbo says he was re-elected when the constitutional council annulled as fraudulent nearly ten percent of ballots cast in his run-off election with Ouattara. Electoral commission results certified by the United Nations show Ouattara won that vote.