Heavy weapons fire rocked Ivory Coast’s economic capital Abidjan Tuesday as forces loyal to internationally recognised president Alassane Ouattara clashed with those of strongman Laurent Gbagbo, AFP reported.
The heavy gunfire came from the city’s Plateau district, where the presidential palace is located.
The news came as the BBC reported that forces loyal to Ouattarra said they had taken the presidential palace in the city, although spokesman Patrick Achi said it was not clear whether Gbagbo was inside at the time
The fighting raged on the second day of an offensive of Ouattara’s forces trying to take Gbagbo strongholds.
He has so far resisted calls to step down after losing presidential elections in November.
On Monday French and UN helicopters fired at the presidential palace and bases of strongman Laurent Gbagbo as the country’s elected president launched an all-out push to make him step down.
The helicopters targeted the presidency, Gbagbo’s residence and military barracks in the main city Abidjan, a UN official said, hours after fighters for Alassane Ouattara launched a new offensive after a months-long election dispute.
Heavy artillery fire and explosions shook central Abidjan as the offensive raged into the evening, AFP reported.
“The final assault for the total capture of the residence and the palace will take place in the coming hours. The operation is expected to finish tonight,” said Sidiki Konate, the spokesman for Ouattara’s prime minister Guillaume Soro.
In a joint operation the United Nations mission UNOCI and former colonial power France’s force Licorne(Unicorn) targeted Gbagbo strongholds.
“We launched the operation to protect people by putting heavy weapons, used by special forces of Laurent Gbagbo against people and against the UN peacekeepers, out of harm’s way,” said UNOCI spokesman Hamadoun Toure.
The mission was in line with UN resolution 1975, adopted on March 30 which ordered sanctions against Gbagbo and also said the UN force should protect civilians and prevent use of heavy weapons.