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Gbagbo clings on as Ivory Coast fighting spreads

Ivorian incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo has come under heavy attack, with forces loyal to internationally recognized election winner Alassane Ouattara bringing the fight to his residence in the main city, Abidjan.

Pro-Ouattara fighter

Incumbent Gbagbo is said to be on his last legs

Fierce fighting spread across central Abidjan Friday as forces loyal to incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo desperately repelled attacks by presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara's troops.

The clashes centered around the state television headquarters and Gbagbo's presidential palace.

In a dramatic four-day sweep, pro-Ouattara forces reached Abidjan after taking the key cocoa exporting port of San Pedro and the official capital Yamoussoukro, having advanced hundreds of kilometers since the start of the week.

Meanwhile, Ivory Coast's land, sea and air borders have been closed until further notice. United Nations troops were in control of Abidjan airport late Thursday, according to UN sources.

Escalating crisis

Gbagbo has refused to step down, despite increasing pressure from the African Union and the West, after losing a November election to Ouattara, according to UN-certified results. His intransigence has triggered a bloody standoff that has killed hundreds and rekindled the country's 2002-2003 civil war.

Ivorians gather at a bus station to depart from Abidjan

Over 100,000 have fled the country for Liberia

At least 494 people have been confirmed killed since the standoff began, according to the UN, but the real figure is likely to be much higher, says the Red Cross.

Meanwhile, thousands in Ivory Coast have sought shelter in churches and public buildings. At least 112,000 have crossed the border into Liberia.

Author: Rob Mudge, David Levitz (AFP, Reuters)

Editor: Susan Houlton

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