French and United Nations forces aboard a helicopter rescued Japan’s ambassador to Ivory Coast after soldiers loyal to presidential incumbent Laurent Gbagbo broke into his residence, Japan’s foreign ministry was quoted as saying.
Ambassador Yoshifumi Okamura, along with seven embassy employees and security officers, had taken shelter inside a safe room, Japanese media reports said. French and United Nations forces used a helicopter to airlift them to safety.
Ivory Coast has been plunged into violence by Gbagbo’s refusal to step down after his opponent, Alessane Ouattara, was declared the winner in a November presidential election by the United Nations, Reuters reports.
Forces loyal to Ouattara laid siege to the incumbent’s residence on Thursday after an attempt to pluck him from his bunker enountered fierce resistance.
Gbagbo has ruled Ivory Coast since 2000 and blames France for supporting the north of the country in the civil war of 2002-03. Rebels from that war now make up the bulk of Ouattara’s force.
Last year’s long-delayed election in the world’s top cocoa producing nation was meant to draw a line under the civil war, but Gbagbo’s refusal to give up power has plunged the country into violence that has killed more than 1,500 people.