Thursday, 31 March 2011

Pro-Ouattara rebels seize Ivory Coast capital in symbolic victory after 4 months of conflict

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast — Fighters supporting Ivory Coast’s internationally recognized leader seized control of the country’s administrative capital on Wednesday, marking a symbolic victory after months of political chaos sparked when the incumbent refused to step down after an election.
The fall of Yamoussoukro caps a dramatic advance on the city from multiple directions this week, but many believe a final bloody battle over the presidency is now destined for the commercial capital of Abidjan, only 143 miles (230 kilometers) away.
Capt. Leon Alla, a defense spokesman for the internationally backed leader Alassane Ouattara, confirmed to The Associated Press on Wednesday that “the town of Yamoussoukro is in the hands of the Republican Forces.”
With the sounds of gunshots cracking over the telephone line, a woman at the downtown Hotel La Residence said the rebel group loyal to Ouattara was doing a victory tour, shooting into the air. Residents came out into the streets to welcome them, she said.
The woman, who would not give her name for fear of reprisals, said soldiers and police had fled hours before the rebels arrived. When the rebels first entered the city center, there were cries of alarm, she said, but those turned to shouts of joy and whistles of approval when the rebel forces were recognized.
“Blitzkrieg seems to be the strategy, rather than fighting to clear every inch and hamlet,” said Christian Bock, senior security analyst at Avascent International. “It will take an enormous amount of restraint to hold these forces back from moving onto Abidjan.”
Alla said the forces hoped for a similar lack of resistance upon reaching the country’s largest city, which is divided into neighborhoods backing Ouattara and others supporting incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo.
“Abidjan will be the same thing,” he told the AP. “We’ll enter without firing a shot because no FDS (pro-Gbagbo) soldier wants to die for Gbagbo.”

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