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New Clashes Erupt in Ivory Coast’s Main City

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New clashes broke out Friday in Ivory Coast's commercial city, Abidjan, where hours earlier troops loyal to embattled leader Laurent Gbagbo launched a mortar attack that killed at least 25 people.

Witnesses report hearing heavy weapons fire and seeing military tanks roll into the city's Abobo district, where most residents back Alassane Ouattara, the U.N. certified winner of a November presidential election.

Fighting has been intensifying in Abidjan between army troops and pro-Ouattara fighters known as “mystic commandos.”

The fighting has killed more than 430 people since the political crisis began.

The U.N. mission in Ivory Coast blamed troops loyal to Mr. Gbagbo for Thursday's mortar attacks on a market in Abobo.

Mr. Gbagbo, the incumbent president, has resisted international demands that he peacefully cede power to Mr. Ouattara. Mr. Gbagbo is expected to speak to the nation Friday to address calls he give up power.

The African Union last week endorsed Mr. Ouattara as the winner of the November presidential election, joining the West African bloc ECOWAS and the United Nations in calling on Mr. Gbagbo to step down.

Mr. Gbagbo has so far rejected all appeals to give up power, and the fighting has sparked fears Ivory Coast could descend into civil war

Mr. Ouattara has agreed to AU recommendations that encourage Mr. Gbagbo to leave peacefully. The former prime minister is offering a national unity government, a truth and reconciliation commission and a combined armed forces.

In western Ivory Coast, former rebels who back Mr. Ouattara have captured at least four towns long held by forces loyal to Mr. Gbagbo.

The U.N. mission in Ivory Coast says more than 75,000 Ivorians have fled across the border into Liberia.

The United Nations says the humanitarian crisis in Ivory Coast is growing worse because the Gbagbo government has refused to allow safe passage of aid to more than 300,000 displaced persons.

Article by VOA News