Addis Ababa, Apr 4 (Prensa Latina) After getting the green light from Paris, French forces under the aegis of the United Nations fired at incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo’s forces on Monday, thus bringing the international community efforts to oust the entrenched leader to an unprecedented escalation.
According to press reports, President Nicolas Sarkozy said the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had requested France’s military participation.
The action took place as Gbagbo’s militias are entrenching in Abidjan and forces of the internationally president elect Alassane Ouattara are readying to assault the Ivorian economic capital.
Ouattara was declared the official winner of the November elections by the Electoral Council, but Gbagbo claimed victory and has refused to cede government after 10 years in power.
The spokesman for the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations Nick Birnback told reporters that Gbagbo’s forces had consistently been using heavy weapons against peacekeepers in recent days.
He says today’s action was taken according to the mandate the U.N. Mission in Cote D’Ivoire, most of it made up of French military, has from the U.N. Security Council.
French troops took control of the airport, allowing it to reopen as the United Nations evacuated around 200 of its employees from Abidjan.
After sending in an extra 300 soldiers to help take control of the airport, France now has 1,400 troops in its former colony, according to reports picked up in this capital.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is urging Ouattara to investigate the massacre of at least 800 people in the western town of Duekoue.
Ouattara insists his followers had nothing to do with the killings, rather accusing the retreating forces loyal to Gbagbo of causing the atrocities. Meanwhile, fighting continued in Abidjan, the country’s main city and former capital, and there is word of clashes near the presidential palace.