Ivory Coast calm as rivals hold positions

Fighters loyal to Ivory Coast presidential rivals Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara held onto positions around the main city Abidjan on Sunday, a day that saw less fighting than the previous three.

Following the three days of pitched battles, Reuters correspondents and witnesses said the main city in the world's top cocoa-growing nation was calm, with sporadic gunfire and explosions heard in some neighbourhoods.



Forces loyal to presidential claimant Ouattara are battling to forcefully remove Gbagbo, who has refused to step down after a disputed election that has rekindled a civil war it was meant to end.



"There was an attack planned (on Saturday) on the presidential residence, but it didn't happen, possibly because of the human shield (Young Patriots) around it," a Western diplomat said.



"But it seems to have started up again. I'm hearing some booms from the direction of RTI (state television)," the diplomat told Reuters early on Sunday.



The relative lull in fighting allowed residents to venture out in search for food and water while others went to church to pray.



After swiftly taking control of swathes of the country, pro-Ouattara forces have met fierce resistance over the past three days in Abidjan where troops loyal to Gbagbo have held on to positions around the presidential palace, Gbagbo's residence, and the state television.



Initially suffering heavy defeats and defections among the top ranks in his army, Gbagbo counts about 3,000 republican guards, some loyal soldiers and his youth wing, the Young Patriots, who have responded to calls to form a human chain around the presidential palace and Gbagbo's residence.













The fighting has brought the number of people killed since the post-election violence began in November to more than 1,300 with reports of carnage in the west of the country in which aid organisations said more than 1,000 people were killed.



The United Nations mission in Ivory Coast (ONUCI) said on Saturday that traditional hunters known as Dozos had joined Ouattara's forces in killing 330 people in the western town of Duekoue. Ouattara rejected allegations that his forces took part in the massacre of the civilians.



The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Saturday that at least 800 people were killed in intercommunal violence in Duekoue this week. It is not clear whether the 330 counted by ONUCI is included in that figure.



UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a conversation late on Saturday with Ouattara he was "concerned and alarmed" about reports pro-Ouattara forces may have killed civilians. Ouattara told him his forces were not involved in the killings.



France said its forces took over Abidjan airport to facilitate the evacuation of foreigners and sent an additional 300 troops to Ivory Coast, bringing its total deployment to 1,500.



France's Defence Minister Gerard Longuet said evacuation of its 12,000 citizens in Ivory Coast was under consideration.



"This is a question which is being asked and which will be settled in the next few hours," Longuet said in an interview on French television LCI.



At Abidjan airport, a security source said he saw French forces bringing in reinforcements. "There were seven big planes and I counted 50 armoured vehicles," he said.



In Paris, armed forces spokesman Colonel Thierry Burkhard said that by taking over the airport, France had "control over the airspace (which) allows those who wish to leave the country to do so".



Around 1,600 foreigners, of whom about half are French, have taken refuge at a French military camp close to the airport.



"Currently, the threat to security stems from the fact that there are nearly no policemen or security forces in the streets (of Abidjan)," Burkhard said.



Burkhard said about 170 foreigners of varied nationalities took military flights from Abidjan to Dakar in Senegal and Lome in Togo on Sunday, but added it was not an evacuation per se.



A military source in Dakar said 48 French citizens and four Belgians would be arriving in Dakar on a military flight at 2100 GMT from Abidjan but did not specify if they were among the 170.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project