Fierce fighting has turned Ivory Coast’s main city into a ghost town as a final showdown looms between presidential rivals.
Inhabitants of Abidjan are terrified to leave their homes. The first evacuations of foreigners have begun. With peacekeepers in its former colony, France is helping secure the safety of its nationals.
France says its peacekeepers have taken control of Abidjan airport to ease the evacuation of foreigners. But a key aide to incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo accused the French of acting like an army of occupation. Their UN mandate does not give them the authority to occupy the airport of a sovereign state, claimed the aide, Alain Toussaint.
Gbagbo has refused to step down since an election in November which UN-certified results show was won by his arch rival Alassane Ouattara. After swiftly taking control of the interior, pro-Ouattara forces have met fierce resistance in Abidjan. Post-election violence has left more than 1,300 people dead.