(Adds details of how peacekeepers injured)
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Three U.N. peacekeepers in Ivory Coast were slightly injured when their patrol was ambushed by forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo in Abidjan on Tuesday evening, a U.N. spokesman said on Wednesday.
The U.N. mission in the West African country is in the middle of a confrontation between the forces of Gbagbo and those of his rival Alassane Ouattara, who the United Nations says beat incumbent Gbagbo in a Dec. 28 presidential election. Gbagbo disputes that and has refused to step down.
U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said the U.N. patrol was ambushed in the Abobo neighborhood, a pro-Ouattara district where clashes between supporters of the two rivals killed at least five people on Tuesday. More fighting was reported there on Wednesday.
“A mixed team of police and military personnel was coming back from patrol when shots were fired at it. In response, the team fired back. Three members of (the U.N.) force were slightly injured during the incident,” Nesirky told reporters.
U.N. officials said the vehicle the peacekeepers were riding in was hit by several bursts of automatic gunfire and the three were injured when it swerved into another vehicle. No one was hit by gunshots, the officials said.
Nesirky said that on Tuesday several hundred men in black uniforms had reportedly begun shooting and evacuating houses in Abobo. The U.N. mission, known as UNOCI, sent two patrols that were blocked by people manning checkpoints.
The 10,000-strong UNOCI has hundreds of troops stationed in and around Ouattara’s headquarters at Abidjan’s Golf Hotel, where they are effectively under siege by Gbagbo’s forces.
Nesirky said that on Monday Gbagbo forces had blocked and looted a UNOCI convoy on its way to resupply the hotel. (Reporting by Patrick Worsnip; Editing by Vicki Allen)