>By MICHELLE FAUL, Associated Press
Source: Yahoo News
|Reuters – Ibrahim Coulibaly (C),
head of the “Invisible Commandos”,
walks with his troops through the …
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast – Ivory Coast’s new army turned its guns Tuesday on a former ally who helped liberate Abidjan and install the democratically elected president, military sources said of a major setback as the country was beginning to return to normal.
Residents said heavy machine-gun fire rocked the working-class suburb of Abobo about 12 p.m. EDT (1700 GMT) Wednesday around renegade warlord Ibrahim “IB” Coulibaly’s headquarters. Residents scattered and ran to lock themselves into their homes. Coulibaly orchestrated two failed coup attempts in 1999 and 2002 before starting a rebellion.
Four military sources from both sides confirmed that the new army of former rebels led by Prime Minister and Defense Minister Guillaume Soro attacked Coulibaly’s headquarters but were met with fierce fighting that lasted more than an hour.
“We drove them back all the way to their base at the mayor’s office,” Capt. Felix Anoble of Coulibaly’s Invisible Commando told The Associated Press.
Anoble named three commanders under Soro’s forces as leading the attack, including fighters for Gen. Issiaka Wattao.
Wattao earlier in the day denied that there had been infighting among pro-Ouattara forces.
In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press he said that Coulibaly was not a problem, but suggested that he would be attacked if he did not accept Ouattara’s authority as president. Coulibaly on Sunday pledged allegiance to Ouattara during an AP interview, saying he regards as a father the man whose bodyguard corps he led from 1990 to 1993 when he was an army sergeant and Ouattara was prime minister.
Coulibaly began the rebellion to oust Gbagbo that divided the country between north and south, but he and Soro fought violent battles for leadership of the rebel movement in 2004, which Soro won.
It’s not clear what power Ouattara, a technocrat and former deputy chief of the International Monetary Fund, has over the former warlords. He initially tried to distance himself from the rebels who were fighting in his name. But when his calls for international aid to oust Gbagbo went unanswered, he acknowledged their loyalty to him and now calls them the Republican Forces of Ivory Coast, commanded by Wattao.
“The power in this country rests with Alassane Ouattara, and he (Coulibaly) cannot dispute that,” Wattao said.
Asked if Coulibaly’s men would be integrated into the new army, he said, “It is better for him if he joins the new army. If he doesn’t join us, he will be killing those children of his,” he said in a derogatory reference to Coulibaly’s fighters.
Mortar shells exploded and heavy fighting continued Wednesday in parts of the sprawling northern suburb of Yopougon, where militiamen who fought for Gbagbo have holed up.
Both Wattao and Coulibaly said it was them doing the fighting there to dislodge the last pockets of resistance. Residents have said both sides are fighting in different areas.
“We took some militia leaders prisoner in Yopougon today and we’re holding them here as proof that it is us liberating that area,” Coulibaly’s Anoble said.
The setback comes nine days after the arrest of disgraced former President Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to accept his November election defeat and took a last stand with his security forces turning rockets and mortars on civilians in the commercial capital of Abidjan.
Coulibaly returned from years in exile to begin the fight to liberate Abidjan in January when Gbagbo’s forces fired rockets and mortars onto civilians in the Abobo neighborhood of predominantly Ouattara supporters.
At a news conference Monday, Coulibaly, who calls himself a general, indicated he expects recognition for his victory, though he did not say what form that should take.