UNITED NATIONS — U.N. peacekeepers and French troops launched military operations against loyalists of Ivory Coast’s longtime strongman Monday, a significant escalation of force that effectively placed peacekeepers on one side of the West African country’s deepening civil war.
The United Nations and France authorized helicopter gunships to target key installations and heavy weapons sites after days of attacks by loyalists of President Laurent Gbagbo on peacekeepers and civilians, according to U.N. officials.
Two U.N. Mi-24 helicopters, piloted by Ukrainian peacekeepers, attacked two military bases controlled by Gbagbo’s forces. U.N. officials said French forces targeted heavy weaponry near the presidential palace and residence in Abidjan, as well as other installations under Gbagbo’s control.
The attacks marked a dramatic development in the international community’s efforts to force Gbagbo from power and provided a boost to Ivorian forces backing Gbagbo’s political rival, Alassane Ouattara, who is widely recognized as the winner of the country’s Nov. 28 presidential election. The attacks also represented a rare instance in which the United Nations has used force against a conventional army.
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