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Ouattara fighters launch major offensive on key town

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2011-03-28

Fighting raged in a key town in western Ivory Coast on Monday as fighters loyal to internationally recognised president Alassane Ouattara upped their offensive against forces loyal to incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo.

AFP - Fighters backing internationally recognised president Alassane Ouattara Monday launched a "general offensive" in the west, centre-west and east of Ivory Coast, an army source said.

"There is a general offensive along the entire frontline," splitting the country in two since a failed coup in 2002, said a source from the army chief of staff.

The north is controlled by pro-Ouattara forces and the south by strongman Laurent Gbagbo's army.

"There was a rebel attack in Duekoue (west), an attack on the second battalion in Daloa (centre-west) and another near Bondoukou (east)," he said.

"In Duekoue fighting is still ongoing. In Dalao and Bondoukou, the attacks were repulsed," he added.

              
The chief of staff for Ouattara's Republican Forces army confirmed the three-pronged attack.

"In Duekoue there is a pocket of resistance in a sawmill at the western exit of the town," the source said.

"In Daloa, we attacked the second battalion barracks and this morning we took the town of Bediola," he said, adding the fighters were now moving into Dalao, the third biggest city in the country and entry to the cocoa belt.

Ivory Coast is the world's biggest producer and exporter of cocoa.

In the east the pro-Ouattara forces were 15 kilometres from Bondoukou, a town bordering Ghana.

The offensive comes as a four-month post-electoral crisis has raised fears the country is heading towards a full-blown civil war, with some 462 killed since the contested November election, according to the United Nations mission.

Despite intense international pressure, outgoing president Laurent Gbagbo is refusing to cede power to his rival after 10 years in power.

Date created : 2011-03-28

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