The last district of Ivory Coast’s financial and business capital, Abidjan, still held by forces loyal to ousted president Laurent Gbagbo has fallen to government troops, authorities said on Wednesday.
Yopougon was “the only area that remained [to be taken] and the entire district is now definitively occupied by us,” Commander Cherif Ousmane, who was in charge of the operation, said on TCI television.
Militias close to Gbagbo had held the district even after he was arrested on April 11 with his wife and about 100 loyalists following a raid on his home in Abidjan by forces supporting Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara. Gbagbo is being detained in the north of the country — a stronghold of Ouattara.
Gbagbo forces were still fighting at Yopougon’s naval base early on Wednesday.
Ivorian Prime Minister Guillaume Soro, who is also defense minister, visited the area on Wednesday afternoon.
“I saw streets littered with bodies,” he said on TCI television. “At the militia headquarters we saw an improvised cemetery. I can imagine the slaughter that took place. I’m still under shock after seeing all these dead, all these bodies.”
Soro said that militia members killed civilians if they carried the wrong name.
“I find this unacceptable,” he said.
Correspondents traveling with Ivorian Red Cross members saw dozens of bodies with gunshot wounds or burnt beyond recognition.
Ouattara, internationally recognized as the winner of the Nov. 28 elections, assumed the presidency after Gbagbo was ousted for refusing to hand over power, plunging the country into a tense and violent crisis.
After taking refuge in an underground bunker in his residence, Gbagbo was finally captured by Ouattara’s forces after the UN and French troops bombarded the building.
Gbagbo and his wife have since been placed under house arrest in different towns in the north of the country and the government has launched a probe against him and his associates.
More than 1,000 people died across Ivory Coast in the violence, which also prompted hundreds of people to flee their homes to safety elsewhere in the country or to neighboring states.