U.N., French forces hit Ivory Coast bases
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JOHANNESBURG -- United Nations and French military helicopters in Ivory Coast on Monday attacked two military bases in Abidjan, along with the presidential palace and residence, undercutting Laurent Gbagbo's desperate fight to retain power after an election the international community says he lost.
The attacks came as forces loyal to Mr. Gbagbo's rival, Alassane Ouattara, announced a big "final push" to drive him from office, with fighters gathering at the edge of Abidjan, the nation's sprawling commercial capital.
About 4 million people remain in the city, many of them trapped by combat. Another 1 million have fled, according to the U.N., and thousands have been killed in the fighting, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.
The U.N. and French strikes against the military bases loyal to Mr. Gbagbo, the first in Ivory Coast's crisis, were intended to destroy heavy weapons being used in attacks on civilians and the world body's peacekeeping mission, according to U.N. officials.
The U.N. said the Agban and Akouedo military bases were attacked, as well as the presidential palace and residence, in line with the U.N. mandate to protect civilians as well as its own peacekeeping troops.
Mr. Gbagbo is so isolated internationally that what would have been unthinkable even a month ago -- attacking U.N. peacekeeping troops -- now appears to be part of his last-ditch effort to hold onto power. Mr. Gbagbo ordered U.N. personnel to leave Ivory Coast last year after the world body recognized Mr. Ouattara as the legitimate winner of November elections, but the U.N. did not accept his authority to do so.
The U.N. compound in Abidjan has come under attack in recent days, as have U.N. convoys -- while Mr. Gbagbo's state television, RTI, has for weeks broadcast statements accusing the world body of genocide.
First Published April 5, 2011 12:00 am