Fighting in the Ivory Coast continues to escalate as opposition forces close in on Abidjan, where incumbent leader Laurent Gbabgo has set up a stronghold. The country has been in a state of civil war since the presidential election on Nov. 28, in which opposition leader and Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara was declared the winner.
The siege, which is in its fifth day, has come to a lull as opposition forces prepare for a final assault of the city to corner Gbabgo and his supporters. According the New York Times, Ouattara forces have already captured the country’s administrative capitol of Yamoussoukro. Reports have come in over the weekend that approximately 1,000 civilians were killed in over a three-day period in Duekoue, a town located in western Ivory Coast. While the area is controlled by Ouattara supporters, they deny a role in the attack.
The United Nations has started pulling out its workers, relocating them in the midst of renewed fighting. Nervous citizens are searching for food and essential supplies, which have become increasingly scarce, as shops have been closed since the fighting began in Abidjan.
While it is widely believed that his forces will be overrun, Gbabgo refuses to cede power to the internationally recognized Ouattara. Gbabgo forces have been bolstered by the return of army chief Gen. Phillippe Mangou. The general had left the country with his family last week, when Ouattara forces began making major gains in capturing key cities. With the final assault looming, France has sent troops to the besieged city, where 12,000 French nationals are located, according to the Associated Press.
International leaders, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have made repeated calls for Gbabgo to step down.
(Photo: ASSOCIATED PRESSAP)