- Title: IVORY COAST: "Invisible commandos" patrol Abidjan neighbourhood of Abobo
- Date: 28th March 2011
- Summary: STREET SCENE WITH PEDESTRIANS
- Embargoed: 12th April 2011 13:00
- Location: Cote d'Ivoire
- Country: Ivory Coast
- Topics: War / Fighting,Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVACVJK1UX769E15IDQ0MDZCJ9GA
- Story Text: Gunmen fighting Ivory Coast's Laurent Gbagbo patrolled the Abidjan neighbourhood of Abobo on Saturday (March 26).
For nearly a month the shadowy group calling itself the "invisible commandos" has delivered a series of defeats on government forces after Gbagbo refused to concede power following a November election. The international community recognises Gbagbo's rival Alassane Ouattara as the winner.
Gun battles and heavy weapons fire have rocked Ivory Coast's main city and hundreds have been killed, mostly civilians, by Gbagbo's forces, the U.N. mission says. Up to a million have fled clashes in Abidjan, a quarter of its population.
Gbagbo's camp says the commandos are pro-Ouattara "terrorists" trying to oust his legitimate government. Ouattara's rival administration has meanwhile sought to distance itself from the insurgents taking over parts of Abidjan -- and for many the feeling seems mutual.
"Since Gbagbo came to power, peace is slipping further and further away from us, that's why we are rising today, to fight against that," said a fighter calling himself Colonel Bauer who controls the "invisible commandos" in the district of Abobo in Abidjan.
Buildings in the neighbourhood are pock marked with bullet holes and bomb craters while burnt out vehicles litter the streets.
Conflicting statements about who is in charge have surfaced, and the chief of the "invisible commando" movement General Coulibaly Ibrahim, also called IB, is regarded as a rival to Ouattara's government.
Gunmen wearing ill-matching combat fatigues and sporting ubiquitous AK-47 assault rifles, patrol in pick-up trucks seized from pro-Gbagbo forces.
The U.N. peacekeeping mission has accused Gbagbo's forces of indiscriminately shelling civilian areas seen as pro-Ouattara, killing at least 50 people in the past week, a charge they deny.
Human Rights Watch says the insurgents have also committed abuses: killing civilians and executing pro-Gbagbo soldiers.
The rebels say their cause -- to chase a dictator from power who has refused to leave peacefully -- justifies the means.
"You can't have a dictator like Gbagbo who agrees to something then changes his mind," said a commando called Defn, wrapped in a belt of grenades and with fingers bejewelled in rings. "We don't want to kill him, just to make him leave."
The group has so far seized control of northern Abidjan and pushed into Gbagbo strongholds in the west as well as near the city centre.
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