U.N. Helicopters Fire on Laurent Gbagbo’s Forces in Ivory Coast

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Photo: Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images

Witnesses in Ivory Coast are reporting that U.N. helicopters have fired four missiles at a military base in Abidjan, the country's former capital. The U.N. is trying to stop President Laurent Gbagbo's forces from using weapons to hit civilians. The missiles were fired on a pro-Gbagbo military camp housing three battalions of the Ivorian army. The international body has no air force, leaving a full-blown offensive like the one in Libya out of the question. However, it does have a Ukrainian aviation unit with three Mi-24 attack helicopters that have been deployed in Ivory Coast. The U.N.'s focus is on heavy weapons, including BM-21 rocket systems, which Gbagbo loyalists are using on civilians. Ivory Coast's brewing conflict is between its two presidents, Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognized election winner. Nonetheless, Gbagbo's forces are targeting U.N. officers and residents of Abidjan.

Over the weekend, the U.N. evacuated 170 civilian staff from Abidjan. Choi Young-jin, the U.N.'s top diplomat in Ivory Coast, told the BBC that Gbagbo had cut off the water to U.N. headquarters where workers were now hiding in the bunker to avoid sniper fire. The U.N.'s 9,000 troops don't have the power to try to oust Gbagbo. They are, however, permitted to respond to heavy weapons attacks against the U.N. or civilians and have deployed a Ukrainian aviation unit with three attack helicopters. Choi said other action was planned.

"We are now in a way under siege, so we cannot go out freely, [they're] targeting us with snipers, it's a deliberate shoot at United Nations.


Laurent Gbagbo's forces fired on by UN attack helicopters
[Guardian UK]