Former Ivory Coast president Gbagbo's party HQ attacked
8/18/2012 6:50:05 PM -
ABIDJAN (AFP) - Former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo's party headquarters was attacked Saturday by armed men who abducted two people and left three slightly wounded, witnesses said.
The incident heightened tensions in the country's economic capital of Abidjan after a recent series of attacks against the army in the area as well as along the border with Liberia.
An AFP photographer at the offices of the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) in the upscale Cocody district saw a car in flames outside while inside a door was smashed, computer equipment stolen and documents strewn over the floor.
"There were about 10 of us having a meeting when people we did not know burst in, carrying clubs, machetes and shotguns," said Jean-Luc Ouallo, a member of the FPI's youth wing.
"They took away two of our comrades" in a raid which lasted some 10 minutes, he said.
"They threatened to shoot us or burn us alive," added Claude Desire Dasse, another youth wing leader.
Another FPI member said the assailants told them, "get out, get out or we'll burn everything."
The witnesses said the men were speaking Dioula, a language originating from the country's north but widely spoken.
The young party members locked themselves in the toilets, which the men were unable to open, Dasse said, though windows were broken.
Three men were hurt, two in the building and a third just outside as he was talking to guards on duty.
One was hit on the head and two in the face.
Police and troops of the UN peacekeeping mission force in Ivory Coast, known as ONUCI, went to the scene after the attack.
It was the latest incident in a series which have affected Abidjan more than a year after the post-electoral crisis of December 2010 to April 2011 claimed 3,000 lives.
The crisis was sparked after Gbagbo refused to step down despite having lost presidential elections to his rival Alassane Ouattara.
On Thursday, armed men attacked an army base, a prison and police stations near Abidjan, prompting Prime Minister Jeannot Kouadio Ahoussou to call on those responsible to disarm and not block the country's "revival."
Ahoussou called for dialogue and announced the dispatch of teams to listen to the population's grievances across the country.
ONUCI, which also issued an urgent appeal for calm, said Friday that the violence demonstrated the need to continue the demobilisation, disarmament and integration of the militia and other fighters responsible for the post-election violence.
The UN mission said at least 70 people had been arrested in the past few days by government security forces on suspicion of attempting attacks on the state.
Gbagbo was eventually arrested after forces loyal to Ouattara stormed his heavily fortified home with French and UN military backing.
He was extradited in November last year to face trial by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity.