UN: 200 000 people flee Ivory Coast fighting

2011-03-03 14:19

Abidjan, Ivory Coast – More than 200 000 people have fled a suburb in Ivory Coast’s commercial capital amid days of heavy street fighting that has left dozens dead and spread fears the country will slide back to civil war, the UN said today.

Days of intense clashes have taken place in Abobo between police loyal to sitting president Laurent Gbagbo and rebel soldiers allied with his opponent, Alassane Ouattara.

Local UN human rights representative Guillaume Ngefa said today that at least 26 people have been killed in Abobo in the last 24 hours alone.

The UN’s refugee agency also expressed alarm about the dire conditions facing people trying to get out of the area, citing “reports of many dead bodies, buses burned and shops looted, and of young militiamen attacking people inside their homes”.

The standoff between the two men claiming to be president reached a new level last week when the army began using war-like weapons, including mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.

Gbagbo, the sitting president, has refused to cede power three months after the UN said Ouattara won the election.

The standoff has already claimed the lives of hundreds of Ouattara supporters, victims of targeted assassinations and “disappearances” carried out at night by security forces loyal to Gbagbo.

Multiple delegations of African leaders have come through Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s commercial hub, in an attempt to persuade Gbagbo to leave office. Gbagbo has rejected all their proposals, including offers of amnesty and a comfortable exile abroad.

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