Ouattara forces enter Ivory Coast’s San Pedro port

ABIDJAN - Forces loyal to Ivory Coast’s Alassane Ouattara marched into the major cocoa port of San Pedro overnight, continuing an offensive that has seen them seize swathes of the country to try to oust leader Laurent Gbagbo.

By (Reuters)

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Published: Thu 31 Mar 2011, 12:35 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 11:22 PM

Two residents who saw them said shooting erupted in the town, with forces backing Ouattara, and one said he thought the rebels had already seized control of San Pedro’s airport although this could not be independently confirmed.

Resisting pressure from the African Union and the West, Gbagbo has refused to step down since an election last November, which U.N.-certified results showed he lost to Ouattara by an 8-point margin, triggering a deadly power struggle.

“Shooting started at around 9 p.m. (2100 GMT) then we saw the rebels’ vehicles drive into the town,” said one resident, who declined to be named for fear of reprisals. “Everyone’s staying indoors, but we’re still hearing a lot of gunfire.”

San Pedro ships half the cocoa beans from the world’s top cocoa grower.

The disputed election that was meant to draw a line under a 2002-3 civil war has instead reignited it, as rebels who control the northern half of the country and now back Ouattara advance south into Gbagbo’s territory from all sides.

They seized the official capital Yamoussoukro, in the centre, on Wednesday, and they have advanced thousands of miles in the east towards the main city Abidjan, where analysts expect the fiercest battles will be.

Ouattara’s prime minister Guillaume Soro told French radio Gbagbo had just “hours” to leave power peacefully.


At least 472 people have been killed since the standoff began, according to the United Nations, and a humanitarian crisis is worsening, with a million people displaced from the commercial capital Abidjan alone.

Thousands more have sought shelter in public buildings and at least 112,000 have crossed into Liberia to the west.

“I’m hearing shooting everywhere since the rebels came in, but I’m not venturing out. People living by the airport say the rebels have taken it over,” said another frightened resident.

The UN Security Council slapped travel bans and asset freezes on Gbagbo, who is already under European Union and US sanctions. The resolution also sought to prevent use of heavy weapons in the main city Abidjan.

Until the push south this week, the worst of the violence had centred on Abidjan, where anti-Gbagbo insurgents, who do not necessarily support Ouattara, have seized parts of town.

A Reuters witness heard heavy weapons fire coming from the area around Agban, the main gendarmerie camp in the city, overnight.

In a sign violence could spin out of control, the army called on Gbagbo’s often violent youth wing to enlist in the military. They have been fired up with anti-French, anti-foreigner and anti-UN propaganda, and on Wednesday, the army started openly handing out weapons to them.

They have set up roadblocks all over town and have attacked UN staff and killed several West African immigrants and suspected Ouattara supporters, Human Rights Watch says.

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