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NAIROBI (Kyodo) Japan’s ambassador to Cote d’Ivoire and seven local employees were rescued by the French military Wednesday night after an armed group forced its way into the envoy’s official residence in Abidjan, according to diplomatic sources and the Foreign Ministry.

Ambassador Yoshifumi Okamura, two staffers and five security guards were taken to a French military base in the capital. However, four other people, including guards and gardeners, were missing from the residence, where large amounts of blood were found, the ministry and other sources said.

Okamura, 53, was the only Japanese at the residence, they said, while 28 Japanese nationals in the country are safe at their homes. Okamura was not injured in the incident.

Forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognized winner of last November’s presidential election, launched a heavy attack Wednesday on the residence of President Laurent Gbagbo, who also claims to have won the election and is refusing to surrender.

Gbagbo’s residence is located several hundred meters from the Japanese ambassador’s official residence.

Several armed people who appeared to be soldiers backing Gbagbo stormed the residence at around 7:20 a.m. Wednesday, after which Okamura and others took shelter in a room behind bulletproof doors. The intruders reportedly fired machineguns and rockets toward the outside before leaving the residence in the afternoon.

The French military rescued the eight using a helicopter in response to a request by the United Nations.

On Monday, Okamura told reporters: “We have been unable to go outside the official residence since March 31. Fierce fighting is going on in the neighborhood.”

He has been ambassador to Cote d’Ivoire since July 2008.

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