ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast — More than 500 BM-21 missiles were found Thursday stacked in green wooden crates in the basement of Ivory Coast’s Presidential Palace, where foreign leaders had come only weeks ago to mediate a peaceful end to the country’s political crisis.
The extent of strongman Laurent Gbagbo’s arsenal is now coming into focus as it is discovered in caches around the city, enough military might to wage an extended civil war, had Gbagbo not been captured on Monday
Pro-Gbagbo soldiers held out for days at the luxurious Presidential Palace in the center of the city, which was only conquered on Wednesday. On Thursday, Secretarary-General Amadou Coulibaly surveyed the premises and found the arms caches.
In the basement of the palace, an Associated Press reporter counted at least 532 cases of BM-21 missiles, each one more than 8 feet long. Crates of mortars, grenades and ammunition littered the sprawling gardens, and boxes of emergency medical supplies were stacked in an office.
All around Abidjan on Thursday, teams of Red Cross workers shoveled charred corpses into bags while U.N. peacekeepers gathered more weapons, throwing them into dump trucks for disposal.
More than a week of heavy fighting turned a city once known as the Paris of West Africa into one of deprivation, fear and death. The urban warfare culminated in the arrest on Monday of Gbagbo.