Ivory Coast: UN presses Ouattara over Duekoue massacre

The BBC's Andrew Harding reports from the western town of Duekoue

The UN secretary general has urged Ivory Coast's internationally-backed president to investigate hundreds of deaths blamed partly on his supporters.

Ban Ki-moon said he was "concerned and alarmed" about the reports, from the town of Duekoue, but Alassane Ouattara said his followers were not involved.

UN forces are now guarding thousands of civilians taking refuge at a church.

In Abidjan, fighting has continued between troops loyal to Mr Ouattara and those of his rival, Laurent Gbagbo.

Pro-Ouattara forces have beaten back Laurent Gbagbo, to a few key locations, but witnesses say the city is now quieter.

Late on Sunday, officials close to Mr Gbagbo said defence chief General Philippe Mangou had left the residence of South Africa's ambassador, where he took refuge after defecting to Mr Ouattara'#s side last week.

Analysis

They're still finding more bodies here - local Red Cross volunteers searching the undergrowth, trawling through streets lined with burned and looted buildings.

And it's still tense - UN soldiers guard the teams as they drag out the corpses and bury them in mass graves. One soldier tells me he's seen four dead children. He turns and scolds a group of local fighters lounging at a nearby roadblock. "No more killing," he says. They nod.

In the centre of town some 40,000 civilians are packed into a church compound. "I'm scared to go home," one man tells me, pointing out onto the street towards dozens of young, heavily-armed men.

A spokesman told the AFP news agency that Gen Mangou had attended a meeting with Mr Gbagbo; one source told Reuters that he had decided to resume his duties as the commander of Mr Gbagbo troops.

Earlier, UN spokesman Hamadoun Toure told the BBC he had heard gunfire near the presidential palace, currently held by Mr Gbagbo, adding that the situation was very tense.

The airport, which had been secured by UN troops since Friday, is now under the control of French troops, allowing it to re-open.

There were reports that the UN was evacuating around 200 employees from Abidjan.

But the city's pro-Gbagbo TV station called for people to mobilise against what it called a French '"occupation".

Mr Ouattara's forces are reported to be planning a further advance towards the presidential palace and have imposed a curfew on the city.

'Shocking brutality'

The violence in Duekoue happened last week, when Mr Outtara's fighters moved south ousting Mr Gbagbo's troops from large swathes of the country. Both sides have said the other was responsible.

Ivory Coast: Battle for power

  • World's largest cocoa producer
  • Once haven of peace and prosperity in West Africa
  • Alassane Ouattara recognised as president-elect in 2010
  • International sanctions imposed to force Laurent Gbagbo to go
  • Hundreds killed, one million have fled since disputed election
  • 9,000 UN peacekeepers monitor 2003 ceasefire

Our correspondent says there is evidence of looting in the town and many houses have been burnt down, adding that the situation is much worse than if an army had simply moved through it.

The UN said on Saturday that more than 330 people had been killed as Mr Ouattara's forces took over Duekoue, most of them at the hands of his fighters. However, more than 100 of them were killed by Mr Gbagbo's troops, it added.

"The secretary general expressed particular concern and alarm about reports that pro-Ouattara forces may have killed many civilians in the town of Duekoue," UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

"The secretary general said those responsible should be held accountable."

UN officials are still investigating and say the final death toll may be higher. Caritas aid agency estimated that 1,000 may have died.

Mr Ouattara said his supporters were not involved, but told Mr Ban he had ordered an investigation into the killings and would welcome an international inquiry, Mr Nesirky said.

So far Mr Ouattara's supporters say they have found 162 bodies, and that the deaths resulted from fighting between local militias.

Looting threat

France has sent an extra 300 soldiers to Ivory Coast, defence ministry spokesman Thierry Burkhard said, taking the total French force to about 1,400.

The aim of the reinforcement was "to take control over the airport which was also done in co-ordination with the UN mission, to allow the re-opening of this airport to civilian airlines and military flights", he told the BBC.

Mr Burkhard added that the force's mission remained primarily the protection of French nationals, who were being threatened by looters.

"We are currently experiencing in Abidjan a security vacuum because the Ivorian security forces, which until now followed the orders of Mr Gbagbo, answered in great numbers the rallying call made by President Ouattara," he said.

There were no immediate plans to start evacuating foreigners, he said, though about 1,600 were sheltering in a French army camp.

They include about 700 French nationals, some 600 Lebanese citizens and 60 Europeans of assorted nationalities, French media report.

Map

Are you in the Ivory Coast? Have you been caught up in events? Send us your comments using the form below:

Send your pictures and videos to yourpics@bbc.co.uk or text them to 61124 (UK) or +44 7725 100 100 (International). If you have a large file you can upload here.

Read the terms and conditions

In most cases a selection of your comments will be published, displaying your name as you provide it and location unless you state otherwise. But your contact details will never be published. When sending us pictures, video or eyewitness accounts at no time should you endanger yourself or others, take any unnecessary risks or infringe any laws.

Terms and conditions

UN alarm at Ivory Coast massacre

More on This Story

Ivory Coast crisis

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Africa stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • Man swinging out of bunkerOut of the bunker

    After years of decline there may be light at the end of the tunnel for the golf equipment industry

Programmes

  • Nurse and patientHARDtalk Watch

    'Shocking' failures of care must be addressed admits the head of the UK's Royal College of Nursing

bbc.co.uk navigation

BBC © 2011 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.