ABIDJAN — Forces loyal to Ivory Coast presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara on Wednesday stormed the residence of incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo who has refused to cede power, a spokeswoman for Ouattara forces told Reuters.
"Yes they (Ouattara forces) are in the process of entering the residence to seize Gbagbo, they have not taken him yet, but they are in the process, they are in the building," Affousy Bamba told Reuters.
Residents around the presidential palace in Abidjan's Cocody neighbourhood said they heard heavy gunfire and loud explosions coming from the direction of the palace.
"I have seen from my building the FRCI fighters (Ouattara forces) in pick-ups and 4x4 jeeps rushing towards Gbagbo's residence, weapons in their hands," Alfred Kouassi, who lives near Gbagbo's residence in Cocody, told Reuters.
"We can hear automatic gunfire and also the thuds of heavy weapons coming from the residence," he said.
Negotiations to persuade Gbagbo to quit suffered a setback when he resisted pressure from the United Nations and France to sign a document renouncing his claim to power.
A French source said the fresh fighting broke out when talks collapsed because Gbagbo who lost a U.N.-certified election but has refused to cede power, was unwilling to negotiate with mediators trying to secure his departure.
The French source said French forces, which took part in a U.N.-approved helicopter attack on Gbagbo's heavy weapons on Monday, were not participating in the fighting on the ground around the presidential residence.
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