Fighting in Abidjan as Ouattara's forces press to final onslaught

Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire (PANA) – Fighting has erupted in the main Ivoroian city of Abidjan, as forces loyal to the internationally recognised president, Alassane Ouattara, press on to end the four-month-old stand-off militarily.

The pro-Ouattara fighters, known as the Republican Forces, have swept across the country rapidly in one week, capturing several cities and towns, including the capital, Yamoussoukro, mostly without a fight.

Gunfire has been heard in Abidjan and heavy fighting is said to be raging around the state television station, one of the most important areas controlled by incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo, who has also claimed the 28 November presidential run-off elections and refused to hand power to Ouattara.

The situation remains unclear as the Republican Forces are said to be at the outskirts of the city.

Ouattara on Thursday ordered a night curfew on Abidjan, according to a decree read on Télé Côte-d'Ivoire.

The curfew would run from 2100 GMT to 0600 GMT until Sunday to secure the safety of the citizens.

Ouattara received an important boost when Army Chief Phillipe Mangou defected on Wednesday with his family to seek refuge at the South African Ambassador's residence in Abidjan.

Ouattara himself has made a broadcast appealing to forces loyal to Gbagbo to switch allegiance.

The West African state was thrown into confusion in November last year when Ouattara and Gbagbo both claimed they won the election and announced separate governments.

The Electoral Commission pronounced Ouattara winner, but the Constitutional Court reversed the decision and pronounced Gbagbo after annulling hundreds of thousands of Ouattara's votes in his northern stronghold.  

The international community recognised Ouattara as victor and asked Gbagbo to hand power to him but he flatly refused.

The stalemate has pushed the world's largest cocoa producer to the verge of another civil war, with the Economic Community of West African States and African Union failing in several efforts to resolve the matter.
-0- PANA MA 31March2011

31 march 2011 20:54:00

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