Rebels Seize Ivory Coast Capital

Forces backing internationally recognized leader make major gain
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 30, 2011 11:49 PM CDT
Rebels Seize Ivory Coast Capital
Internationally recognised Ivory Coast President Alassane Dramane Ouattara, arrives at an African Union meeting earlier this month.   (AP Photo Samson Haileyesus, file)

Fighters supporting Ivory Coast's internationally recognized leader seized control of the nation's administrative capital on Wednesday, marking a symbolic victory after months of political chaos sparked when the country's former president refused to step down after an election. The fall of Yamoussoukro caps a dramatic advance on the city from multiple directions this week by soldiers supporting Alassane Ouattara, but many believe a final bloody battle over the presidency is now destined for the commercial capital of Abidjan, only 143 miles away.

Abidjan is the country's largest city and the power base of Laurent Gbagbo, who has refused to relinquish the presidency. A spokesman for Ouattara says pro-Gbagbo forces fled Yamoussoukro before the rebels arrived and they hope for a similar lack of resistance upon reaching Abidjan, which is divided into neighborhoods backing rival presidents. The UN Security Council voted unanimously yesterday to demand an immediate end to the escalating violence and impose sanctions on Gbagbo. Up to 1 million peple have fled the fighting over the last few months and hundreds of people have been killed. (More Alassane Ouattara stories.)

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