French Troops Rescue Japanese Ambassador In Ivory Coast

Apr 7, 2011

French troops extricated Japan's ambassador to Ivory Coast from his home in Abidjan last night. The Guardian reports Ambassador Yoshifumi Okamura and seven staff members were sheltering in a safe room at his home when supporters of intransigent Ivorian leader Laurent Gbagbo broke in.

Okamura blames mercenaries for the attack. He says the fighters had installed machine guns and rocket propelled grenade launchers on his roof before the French arrived by helicopter and plucked him to safety.

The Japanese compound is close to Gbagbo's home; the Ivorian leader is sheltering there against attacks by supporters of rival Alassane Ouattara, and insists he will not leave power, despite his calls earlier this week for a truce and rumors that he'd cede power to Ouattara. He'd even sent top aides to talk with French and UN leaders who've attacked his fighters. The UN recognizes Ouattara as Ivory Coast president and has demanded Gbagbo step down.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon spoke with NPR. He says the UN's responsibility is to protect Ivorian citizens, and he wishes Gbagbo would protect them, too:

Fighting in the Ivorian commercial capital goes on; Bloomberg reports food and supplies are low and several hundred people sheltering at a French military base at the city limits are out of water. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit