Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo’s army chief has sought refuge at the home of South Africa’s ambassador in Abidjan, South Africa’s foreign ministry says.

Phillippe Mangou was accompanied by his wife and children, a statement said.

The news came as forces loyal to the UN-recognised president, Alassane Ouattara, were reported to be on the outskirts of the main city of Abidjan.

Mr Gbagbo continues to cling to power in Abidjan, despite the UN saying he lost November’s poll.

Fighters loyal to Mr Ouattara began their advance south from their northern bases on Monday, capturing the capital, Yamoussoukro, and the key port of San Pedro on Wednesday.

The BBC’s John James in Yamoussoukro says almost the only area President Gbagbo still controls is Abidjan – 240km (150 miles) to the south of the capital.

Mr Gbagbo’s home town of Gagnoa has also fallen.

Prison break

Since the crisis began in December, one million people have fled the violence – mostly from Abidjan – and at least 473 people have been killed, according to the UN.

South Africa’s Department of International Relations said Gen Mangou arrived at their ambassador’s official residence in Abidjan with his family on Thursday night.

“The South African government is in consultation with the relevant parties in the Ivory Coast, Economic Community of West African States, the African Union and the United Nations regarding this matter,” the statement said.

On Wednesday, the UN voted to impose sanctions on Mr Gbagbo’s circle, adding economic measures already taken by the EU and African groups.

The UN resolution, drafted by France and Nigeria, imposes a travel ban and assets freeze on Mr Gbagbo, his wife Simone and three of his closest associates.

Residents on the outskirts of Abidjan report heavy fighting around the entry into the city on Thursday morning.

Our correspondent says there are several reports that the main prison has been broken into and the prisoners set free.

The pro-Ouattara forces have controlled the north of the country since a 2002 civil war.

Pro-Gbagbo troops have lost every battle against them since last November’s election, our reporter says.

Source: BBC