ABIDJAN (Reuters) – Fighters loyal to Alassane Ouattara attacked the residence of incumbent Laurent Gbagbo in Abidjan the early hours of today and have seized control of Ivory Coast’s state television, a Ouattara spokesman said.
Ouattara loyalists entered the city earlier yesterday after a swift offensive south aimed at ousting Gbagbo, who has refused to cede power in a power struggle since a Nov 28 election that UN-certified results showed he lost.
“His house is under attack. That’s for sure. There is a resistance, but it’s under attack,” spokesman Patrick Achi told Reuters.
There was no immediate reaction from Gbagbo’s camp.
Fighting in Abidjan between Ouattara’s forces and those loyal to Gbagbo raged for hours on Thursday and heavy weapons fire rang out in the centre of the commercial capital of the world’s top cocoa producer.
Residents across the city said the state broadcaster stopped transmitting at 2245 GMT yesterday after repeatedly showing images of Gbagbo and his close entourage. Gbagbo has been due to speak on state media for days.
“(State broadcaster) RTI is taken, it’s off air. It is under control,” Achi said, adding a statement would be made later today.
“(Gbagbo) hasn’t shown any signs of giving up. I don’t think he will see the game is up, because he really believes God will save him … Gbagbo is in his house. I’m certain. He hasn’t gone anywhere,” he added.
Earlier this week, Ouattara’s forces advanced from several directions, taking the capital and the cocoa port of San Pedro with little resistance.
But Gbagbo’s elite forces took positions around the presidential palace yesterday and Ouattara’s forces could get sucked into bloody urban warfare with his hard-core supporters, some of whom are recently armed civilians.
French soldiers were also deployed in the city to protect foreign residents. A United Nations helicopter gunship flew overhead during the afternoon.
The four-month-long bloody standoff that killed hundreds and rekindled the country’s 2002-3 civil war. About 1 million have fled Abidjan alone and some 112,000 other have crossed into Liberia, to the west, according to the United Nations.