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30 Mar 2011 12:12
Fighting broke out on Wednesday between forces loyal to internationally recognised Côte d’Ivoire president Alassane Ouattara and his rival’s troops in a town 40km from Côte d’Ivoire’s capital, Yamoussoukro.
“There has been shooting for two hours in Tiebissou, currently fighting is taking place downtown,” said a resident of Tiebissou, a strategic point of access to the political capital of Côte d’Ivoire.
The town is held by soldiers loyal to Côte d’Ivoire strongman Laurent Gbagbo, who has refused to cede power to Ouattara after a November election.
“Fighting with heavy weapons started at 2am, we are hiding in our houses. We heard the first detonations at the exit towards Bouake,” an Ouattara stronghold, another resident of the town told Agence France-Presse.
Four months after a disputed election that saw Gbagbo refusing to cede power, forces backing Ouattara have grown weary of failed diplomatic efforts and are waging a vast offensive to seize control of towns across the country.
Traditional ceasefire line
In a push south from a traditional ceasefire line splitting the country in two since 2002—which left pro-Ouattara rebels in control of the north and Gbagbo holding the south—Ouattara’s army seized four strategic towns on Tuesday.
They are now closer than ever to the economic capital, Abidjan, the heart of Gbagbo’s power.
“All the peaceful routes to lead Laurent Gbagbo to admit his defeat have been exhausted,” read a statement issued on Tuesday by Ouattara and his allies.
In the far west, the town of Duekoue and, closer to the centre of the country, the large city of Daloa were captured.
Both cities are key entry points to areas of cocoa production as well as the road leading to San Pedro—the world’s largest cocoa exporting port.
In the far east, Bondoukau fell to pro-Ouattara fighters, followed by Abengourou further south, residents reported, placing them 220km from Abidjan.
Election-linked violence has left at least 460 people dead with as many as one million fleeing their homes, according to UN agencies.—AFP
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