Ivory Coast: Gbagbo soldiers shoot at UN forces

Abidjan – A group of gunmen in military uniform opened fire on the United Nations base in Abidjan overnight, the UN said on Saturday, as tension mounted between Laurent Gbagbo’s government and the mission.

There was no report of anyone hurt in the attack, which came after Gbagbo’s armed forces accused UN peacekeepers of arming rebel fighters loyal to rival presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara.

A statement from the United Nations Operation in Cote d’Ivoire (UNOCI) said one of its patrols in Abidjan “was followed by a group of six armed men dressed in military clothing on board a civilian vehicle”.

“On arriving outside the UNOCI headquarters in Sebroko, the occupants of the civilian vehicle fired shots in the direction of the UNOCI patrol as it entered the mission compound,” it added.

“The assailants continued firing along the wall of the compound, forcing the sentry to return their fire. UNOCI reiterates its appeal for calm and serenity and calls on all parties concerned to avoid any recourse to violence.”

The UN has recognised Ouattara as the victor in last month’s Ivory Coast presidential election and has said its 10 000-strong peacekeeping force will protect him, while calling on Gbagbo to step down.

Gbagbo has refused to go, and retains the loyalty of the military, which warned on Friday that it no longer regards the UN force as neutral and accused it of arming pro-Ouattara fighters and smuggling them into Abidjan.

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