, PARIS, Apr 11 – French helicopter strikes have partially destroyed the Abidjan residence of Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo, a minister loyal to the embattled strongman said on Monday.
"In these last hours French military helicopters fired on the residence of Laurent Gbagbo, partially destroying this residence," youth minister Charles Ble Goude told France 24 television.
United Nations troops and French forces attacked positions of pro-Gbagbo troops overnight after a luxury hotel serving as the base of UN-recognised president Alassane Ouattara came under fire.
A spokesman for the UN mission in Ivory Coast (UNOCI) said its peacekeepers and France\’s Licorne force had aimed to destroy heavy weapons that were being used against civilians.
Missiles were fired at Gbagbo\’s residence shortly before 11:00 pm (2300 GMT) on Sunday, a source close to the operation said. The presidential palace and military camps were also targeted.
But Ble Goude, known as Gbabgo\’s street general for his ability to rouse the masses, denied there had been any heavy weapons at the residence.
"We denounce France\’s interventionism, its invading racism. The heavy weapons are not in the residence," Ble Goude said by telephone from an unknown location.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon confirmed he had ordered the attack and repeated UN accusations that the Gbagbo camp had used an offer of talks he made last week "to regroup their forces and redeploy heavy weapons".
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