Ivory Coast Fighting Centers On Abidjan
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne,
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
A little bit earlier today we reached journalist Marco Chown Oved in Adidjan. What have you seen in the last 24 hours or so?
MARCO CHOWN OVED, Host:
Yesterday, the United Nations used some helicopter gunships to attack military bases around this city. And again, another surprising aspect is that the French pitched in. the French who have a presence here in the country historically - this is, of course, a former French colony - have always said that they're only here to protect their own citizens. Yet yesterday they pitched in with their own helicopters, attacking the presidential palace and the state television.
INSKEEP: So we the French, U.N. forces and people supporting the elected president on one side moving into the capital. Is it clear that President Gbagbo still has forces fighting on his side or have they fled?
CHOWN OVED: We've been calling around to the different neighborhoods this morning and the fighting is still quite intense in and around the presidential residence. There is where we've heard that Mr. Gbagbo is holed up in a bunker underground. But - and he's surrounded by his Republican Guard, which is 2,000 to 2,500 of his most elite, highest trained and best equipped soldiers.
INSKEEP: Let me pass on a claim to you that comes out of France. The elected president, effectively the rebel in this situation, has appointed an ambassador to France. And that ambassador is saying that President Gbagbo is negotiating some kind of surrender. That's his claim anyway. Is there any evidence of that on the ground where you are or any confirmation?
CHOWN OVED: If I was in a house and it was burning and there was fighting around me I would probably be negotiating my way out as well. We are hearing various rumors but nothing concrete.
INSKEEP: Just to be clear on the geography here. Is there anywhere for President Gbagbo to go if he loses control of Abidjan, or is the rest of the country effectively in the hands of his opponents at this point?
CHOWN OVED: No. No. The country is virtually entirely in the control of forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara. Leaving Abidjan at this point would probably mean only one thing for Laurent Gbagbo, and that's exile to a foreign country.
INSKEEP: And what shape is the city in? By which I mean how destructive has the fighting been around the city, at least as much as you've been able to see?
CHOWN OVED: But in terms of the city itself it's a just quiet lockdown zone except around these key points.
INSKEEP: Thanks very much.
CHOWN OVED: Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.