A missile is seen flying over the sky in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, April 4, 2011. The United Nations Operation in Cote d'Ivoire (UNOCI) and the French force undertook a military operation against forces loyal to the incumbent Ivorian leader Laurent Gbagbo. (Xinhua/Wu Xiaoming)
ABIDJAN, April 4 (Xinhua) -- French army helicopters fired on a military camp held by the army loyal to Cote d'Ivoire's incumbent Laurent Gbagbo on Monday in the economic capital Abidjan to add forces seeking an end to his rule.
Meanwhile witnesses reported that UN helicopters also fired on the pro-Gbagbo military camp in Abidjan.
The French Licorne troops deployed in Cote d'Ivoire has increased to 1,650 after the recent reinforcement to protect civilians. The UN mission in Cote d'Ivoire (ONUCI) has at least 9, 800 personnel in the warring West African country.
Paris, which has taken control of Abidjan's airport, said on Monday that several people were kidnapped in the past days including French nationals, indicating that the pro-Gbagbo forces were responsible for the abduction
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he has authorized the French troops to participate in all the ONUCI operations to "neutralize" heavy arms being used by forces loyal to Gbagbo against the civilian population and UN personnel.
UN officials have admitted exchanges of fire with Gbagbo's security forces, accusing the latter of attacking first.
Gbagbo still has elite troops including the Republican Guard in his last bastions of the state television station, the presidential palace and the presidential residence.
The strong resistance by Gbagbo's military camp is biting the offensive by the rival Republican Forces headed by the country's internationally recognized President Alassane Ouattara.
The resumption of control of the state television RTI last week by Gbagbo's forces indicated a possibility of longer days of the decisive Abidjan battle than previously expected, especially by Ouattara's supporters.
On Monday, Ouattara's spokesman Alain Lobognon declared the final offensive to take over control of the world's top cocoa producing country in West Africa.
Lobognon said the Republican Forces took action Monday afternoon to end the war over the city.
His declaration came amid reports that 4,000 fighters entered the city to join the 5,000 pro-Ouattara forces fighting day in and day out since Thursday.
Heavy weaponry was witnessed in the city on Monday when the Republican Forces maneuvered troops for military operations.
The Republican Forces launched the military march in December while the political standoff triggered waves of post-election violence.
The pro-Ouattara forces gained ground quickly last week, taking a series of important towns before reaching Abidjan on Thursday.
The ongoing war is the second in the country since the 2002- 2003 civil war, dividing Cote d'Ivoire into Gbagbo's south and the north controlled by ex-rebel New Forces, the backbone now of the newly formed Republican Forces.
The country's Nov. 28 presidential run-off was expected to end the long-standing division, but the political standoff over the top post unleashed another all-out war.
France sends additional 150 soldiers to Cote d'Ivoire
PARIS, April 4 (Xinhua) -- France has sent 150 more soldiers to Cote d'Ivoire to protect civilians while bloody battle over presidency in the West African country is continuing, French military spokesman said on Monday.
The French soldiers were sent from Gabon to reinforce troops already deployed in Cote d'Ivoire, local media cited spokesman of the army general staff, Thierry Burkhard, as saying.Full story
UN peacekeeping chief defends military operations in Cote d'Ivoire
UNITED NATIONS, April 4 (Xinhua) -- Alain Le Roy, UN under-secretary-general for peacekeeping operations stressed that the operations, staged in accordance with the relevant UN resolution, are aimed at preventing the use of heavy weapons against civilians in the West African country.Full story
Pro-Ouattara camp declares final battle to take over Cote d'Ivoire
ABIDJAN, April 4 (Xinhua) -- The camp headed by Cote d'Ivoire's internationally recognized president Alassane Ouattara on Monday declared the final battle to take over control of the world's top cocoa producing country in West Africa.
The camp's spokesman Alain Lobognon said the Republican Forces backing Ouattara launched the final offensive on Monday afternoon on the main targets of the state television, the presidential palace and the presidential residence, the last bastions of Ouattara's presidential rival Laurent Gbagbo in the biggest city Abidjan.Full story