Ivory Coast opposition blockade lifted, police desert: UN
Paris (AFP) March 31, 2011
A blockade of a hotel housing rivals of Ivory Coast's Laurent Gbagbo has ended and police have deserted him as rebels advance to drive him from power, the UN envoy in Abidjan said on French radio Thursday.
The UN representative Choi Young-jin said the blockade was no longer in place at the Golf Hotel, where Alassane Ouattara, recognised by much of the international community as the country's rightful leader, has been under siege.
Speaking on France Info radio, Choi added that the police and gendarmes had deserted Gbagbo, leaving him with only the "special forces" charged with guarding the presidential palace and his home.
"At the Golf Hotel, the blockade has disappeared... the people living in the Golf can leave freely," Choi said.
"The 50,000 police and gendarmes have all left Gbagbo. There remain only special forces of the Republican Guard and the CECOS" commando force, he added.
Ouattara has been recognised by much of the international community as the winner of Ivory Coast's November election leader but Gbagbo has refused to quit power, dragging the country into violence that has raised fears of civil war.
Rebel leader Guillaume Soro said earlier that his forces were "encircling" Ivory Coast's main city Abidjan to drive Gbagbo from power and that several military generals had defected to Ouattara's side.
earlier related report
In an address to the nation broadcast on radio and television, Compaore said he would receive "representatives from various armed forces".
He was speaking after a week of violence by the country's soldiers.
In Ouagadougou last week several soldiers fired in the air and looted stores to protest the conviction of five colleagues in a sex scandal.
The convicted men were freed after the five-hour protest.
And on Tuesday soldiers fired a rocket at the main courthouse in the eastern city of Fada N'Gourma, a day after freeing a comrade jailed for rape from prison and blocking the entrance to the town with tanks.
The army chief of staff meanwhile released a statement announcing a curfew from Wednesday night between 9:00 pm and 6:00 am.
But fresh unrest broke out in the capital Ouagadougou overnight however, with shots heard around 10:00 pm coming from a military barracks just a kilometre north of the presidency, according to an AFP journalist.
"It is elements from within the camp who are shooting, we went to chase them away," a presidential security officer told AFP.
In his broadcast, Compaore said: "The past few days, elements of the armed forces have refused to acceped judicial decisions, have seized weapons of war and ammunition to terrorise the population and have committed acts of pillage."
"Such behaviour will not be tolerated in a state of law."
Earlier Wednesday Simon Compaore, the mayor of Ouagadougou and number three of Burkina Faso's ruling party, was injured when angry soldiers ransacked his home.
Angry soldiers left their barracks in the east of Ouagadougou, shooting in the air and going on the rampage in Compaore's home, said an aide to the mayor, who is also secretary general of the ruling Congress for Democracy and Progress.
"The mayor's home was completely vandalised, he was injured. He is undergoing examination at a clinic," the aide said.
An AFP journalist said the walls of his house were pitted with bullet holes.
The home of the army chief of staff, Dominique Djindjere, was also targeted, AFP noted.
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