Fighting abates in Ivory Coast economic capital

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ABIDJAN – The streets of Ivory Coast’s economic capital Abidjan were deserted Sunday while fighting abated near bastions of strongman Laurent Gbagbo after a four-day assault by rival forces, residents and AFP journalists said.
Terrified Abidjan residents have been in lockdown since the army of internationally recognised president Alassane Ouattara arrived Thursday after a lightning offensive across the country, seeking to unseat Gbagbo. In the administrative district Plateau, scene of heavy combat around the presidential palace, only sporadic machinegun fire was heard early Sunday after deafening explosions of heavy weapons on Friday afternoon.
In the northern suburb of Cocody, fighting has been taking place within a wide radius including Gbagbo’s private residence and state television RTI. “There was shooting here and there during the night, but there wasn’t any real fighting,” one resident said. The Ivorian strongman has brushed aside calls by world leaders to step down, and his forces have managed to repulse the rival army while Abidjan has been beset by violence and looting.
Meanwhile, the United States early Sunday called on Gbagbo to step down immediately, saying he was pushing the West African nation into lawlessness. “The United States calls on former President Laurent Gbagbo to step down immediately,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement. “Gbagbo is pushing Cote d’Ivoire into lawlessness,” she added. “The path forward is clear. He must leave now so the conflict may end.”