UN Goes on the Offensive in Ivory Coast, Launches Air Strikes

Things are getting more fierce in Abidjan.  Hours after the head of the UN peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast, known as UNOCI, complained that his compound was under siege and his troops targeted by pro-Gbagbo snipers, one of the few UNOCI attack helicopters actually went on the attack.

AFP is reporting that UN aircraft launched missile strikes on Gbagbo’s residence and a military base.

Helicopters from the United Nations mission in Ivory Coast have opened fire on strongman Laurent Gbagbo’s residence and presidential palace, the UN spokesman has told AFP.

UN helicopters have also fired on the Akouedo military camp of troops loyal to Gbagbo, witnesses say.

Meanwhile, the French government says French and UN soldiers are engaged in operations in Abidjan to “neutralise” weapons used against civilians by fighters for Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo. 

Under the auspices of UN Security Council resolution 1975, the troops “have engaged in actions aimed at neutralising heavy arms used against civilians and UN personnel in Abidjan”, France said in a statement on Monday.

This is a huge development.  It is very rare that UN peacekeepers go on the offensive and launch a strike like this.  It is also somewhat rare that a sophisticated western military power provides support for a UN mission.

It would appear that the UN and France have joined the Outarra-led offensive against Gbagbo’s forces. Of course, the UN and France will only intervene within the confines of their mandate–but in this case, it would seem that UNOCI has made the fateful decision to interpret its civilian protection mandate to pro-actively target Gbagbo’s forces.

I imagine that is only a matter of time before Gbagbo is killed or captured.

UPDATE: Here is some video from YouTube of intense bombardment in Abidjan.  To be honest, I don’t know exactly what is going on, but it looks scary.