As fighting has raged in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, with no sign of letup (the top general who reportedly defected from Laurent Gbagbo has now rejoined the army), the attacks have been most fierce on United Nations peacekeepers. Gbagbo’s loyalists in particular have targeted UN blue helmets for attacks. After days of this, the UN returned fire today.
UN helicopters have fired on a camp of forces loyal to Ivory Coast’s incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo as his opponent’s fighters launched a new offensive on the main city, Abidjan.
Loud explosions have been heard as fighters backing internationally recognised President Alassane Ouattara move towards the presidential palace.
France has authorised its forces to join the UN in protecting civilians.
The UN did authorize a resolution to use “all necessary means” to protect civilians in Ivory Coast, but missile attacks on a military camp doesn’t seem to fit that definition. But eleven of the over 9,000 peacekeepers have been shot in sniper attacks in recent days, Gbagbo had cut off water to the UN headquarters and more attacks were likely to come. So that was the context for this UN assault on the Gbagbo military compound. They are largely responding to heavy weapons attacks against themselves.
Troops in support of Alassane Ouattara have been massing outside Abidjan for one final attack. So far they have been unable to acquire or hold any of the key assets in Abidjan, like the TV station, the Presidential palace or the residence. But forces are on the move.
Andrew Harding of the BBC writes:
A lot of troops have just left for what senior military commanders here are telling me is the final push for the city.
A general emerged from a meeting at a makeshift headquarters at a half-built toll station and told me confidently that the city would be in his control in “a matter of hours”.
Mr Ouattara’s forces have, of course, been saying this for some days but there is no doubt that this is a new and substantial offensive.
We could have an endgame soon.