- Associated Press - Thursday, January 13, 2011

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast | Youths loyal to the Ivorian president, who is refusing to cede power, burned at least three U.N. vehicles and vandalized an ambulance in the country’s main city Thursday, a U.N. official said.

Acting spokesman Kenneth Blackman said the U.N. ambulance had to flee an area of Abidjan after security forces backing incumbent Laurent Gbagbo began pelting it with stones.

Earlier Thursday in the Riviera II neighborhood, a Gbagbo stronghold, students loyal to the leader forced a U.N. vehicle to stop at a makeshift roadblock. They pulled the driver out of the car and beat him while another group smashed the vehicle’s windows and set it on fire, said a witness who declined to be identified for security reasons.

It was not immediately known what happened to the driver, and the U.N. mission in Abidjan said it was looking into the attack.

The cocoa-producing country has been tense since a heavily disputed Nov. 28 election, which the international community says opposition leader Alassane Ouattara won. Mr. Gbagbo, who refuses to give up power, still controls the military and security forces across this lagoon-side city.

An Associated Press reporter who arrived on the scene in the Riviera II neighborhood after the attack saw the vehicle still smoldering. There were no U.N. troops or security forces in sight.

After the U.N. certified Mr. Ouattara as the winner, Mr. Gbagbo accused the global body of bias and ordered thousands of peacekeepers to leave the country immediately. U.N. peacekeepers patrolling the streets of Abidjan have come under growing threat of violence, including one who was wounded in a machete attack last month.

Violent clashes in Abidjan already have left up to 11 people dead in recent days, including four civilians. Authorities imposed a curfew in the Ouattara stronghold of Abobo and sent in a convoy of military trucks following fighting that began there Tuesday after a police raid.

Up to seven police officers are among the dead, and army chief Philippe Mangou warned that his troops reserved the right to retaliate.

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