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UN helicopter attacked in Ivory Coast; killings continue

Posted by on March 30, 2011 0 Comment

New York/Geneva, March 29 (DPA) The UN peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast said Tuesday one of its helicopters was shot at by opposition security forces while an armed group loyal to President Laurent Gbagbo attacked and killed a dozen civilians in the capital Abidjan.

“Elements of the Forces Republicaines de Côte d’Ivoire (FRCI) fired at the helicopter, but failed to hit it,” the UN mission in Ivory Coast (UNOCI) said about the attack in Duekoue, in the western part of the country.

FRCI supports Alassane Ouattara, the UN-certified winner of the November presidential elections whose forces are fighting Gbagbo’s supporters because the latter refused to give up power.

FRCI soldiers had engaged in fierce fighting with Gbagbo’s forces in recent days in Duekoue. The UN said also that pro-Gbagbo youths burned a young man alive in Abidjan, setting afire the tyre around his body, while other youths attacked UN personnel in the capital.

An armed group loyal to Gbagbo Monday attacked a group of civilians in the Abidjan suburb of Williamsville, killing a dozen people, the UN said.

“UNOCI condemns this wave of atrocities against civilians and warns that these acts will not go unpunished,” the mission said in a statement.

“With the increase in human rights violations and barbaric practices, there are grounds for wondering whether President Gbagbo is still in charge of his forces and supporters,” the UN said.

“UNOCI believes it is imperative to end this spiral of violence by finding a definitive solution to the political impasse which stemmed from the post-electoral crisis.”

In Geneva, the UN said new violent clashes had erupted in western and eastern parts of the Ivory Coast, creating more refugee outflows as people flee for their lives.

The International Organisation for Migration has warned that the offensive in the west is preventing tens of thousands of displaced people from receiving humanitarian aid.

The violence has forced 116,00 people to flee the country, mostly to Liberia, since the Ivory Coast was plunged into crisis following Gbagbo’s refusal to leave power.

The number of displaced people inside the country could exceed one million, the UN has said, with more displacement expected.

Reports say Ouattara loyalists are aiming to shut down the border with neighbouring Liberia to stop Gbagbo fighters from entering Ivory Coast.

The UN Refugee Agency spokeswoman Melissa Flemming said the organisation condemns any military action that would prevent civilians from reaching safety, but noted that the border with Liberia is porous and over 700 km long.

Ouattara forces also seemed to be making gains upon the new battlegrounds in the west, seizing important towns with links to a key port.

While Abidjan has been relatively quiet in recent days, UN officials say the situation remains tense in the main economic centre of the world’s largest cocoa producer.

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