Ivory Coast Conflict Deepens As Protests Mount Over Disputed Elections

Military police loyal to Ivory Coast's incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo fired Thursday on opposition marchers, while at the same time the first battle between opposition members and government forces in more than six years broke out. The violence fueled fears that an election that was supposed to cap a protracted peace process will instead usher in a new civil war. A number of people were killed – estimates ranged from nine to as high as 40 – as supporters of Mr. Gbagbo's opponent, Alassane Ouattara, who is broadly accepted as the winner of last month's presidential election, attempted to heed Mr. Ouattara's call to take over the state television station in the commercial capital of Abidjan.

Their target was apt. The two channels broadcast out of the station's low, flat building provide the only news available to the majority of Ivorians, as no private television is permitted. Since the disputed election, state TV has refused to report Ouattara's win or any of the support he has received from abroad – including the United Nations, the United States, France, Germany, and Nigeria. Instead, for two weeks now, Ivorians have been subjected to a propaganda campaign with a simple message: Laurent Gbagbo is the legitimately elected leader of the country.When the nightly curfew that this west African nation has lived under for more than two weeks lifted at 5 a.m. on Thursday, people began descending into the streets, gathering and moving toward the TV headquarters.

Ouattara's gambit appeared to be that soldiers wouldn't fire on peaceful demonstrators supporting a democratically elected president while all the world looked on.

But Gbagbo surrounded the TV building with heavily-armed soldiers, and security forces thwarted many marchers by targeting them early on in their neighborhoods, at first using tear gas but soon turning to live ammunition and even machine guns."