(Reuters) - French forces destroyed military vehicles belonging to troops loyal to Ivory Coast's Laurent Gbagbo during a helicopter-borne mission that rescued Japan's ambassador to the West African country on Thursday.
The French, who have already joined helicopter raids to destroy Gbagbo's heavy weapons, went in after Gbagbo soldiers broke into the residence, where ambassador Yoshifumi Okamura, along with seven of his staff, had taken shelter inside a safe room, French armed forces spokesman Thierry Burkhard said.
The rescue came as forces loyal to presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara laid siege to Gbagbo's own residence nearby after an attempt to pluck him from his bunker on Wednesday met with fierce resistance.
Fighting continued in Abidjan as Ouattara's forces tried to unseat Gbagbo, who has refused to cede power after losing a November election to Ouattara, according to U.N.-certified results.
Sporadic explosions broke the silence of one of the quieter nights since Ouattara's soldiers arrived in the economic capital a week ago, a Reuters witness said.