Thursday, March 31, 2011

U.N. helicopter shot at over Ivory Coast

A United Nations helicopter was shot at Monday while on a reconnaissance flight over the Ivory Coast, the U.N. said Tuesday.

The U.N. operation in the nation blamed forces that support Alassane Ouattara for firing the shots, which they said did not reach the helicopter. It was flying reconnaissance over Duekoue at the time, the U.N. said.

"Elements of the Forces Républicaines de Côte d'Ivoire (FRCI) fired at the helicopter, but failed to hit it," said the mission, which identified the group as supporting Ouattara. It said the action could be considered a war crime.

The international community has widely recognized Ouattara as the winner and legitimate leader of the west African nation, but incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo has refused to cede power. The stalemate has resulted in uncertainty and bloodshed.

Forces loyal to Ouattara said they have taken the cities of Daloa, Duekoue and Bondoukou. CNN could not verify those claims Tuesday.

Pro-Gbagbo forces shot at innocent civilians Monday in the Abidjan suburb of Williamsville, killing about a dozen people, the U.N. operation said in the same statement.

The U.N. is serving in a peacekeeper role in the nation, which has been wracked by violence and is sliding toward civil war following a November election.

Earlier this month, at least 25 people were killed in what the U.N. condemned as a shocking escalation in violence.

France, Ivory Coast's former colonial ruler, called it a "deliberate massacre of civilians" and called on the U.N. Security Council to adopt sanctions against Gbagbo and his circle, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero.

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