UN: At least 210 killed in I. Coast unrest

AFP, Thursday 6 Jan 2011

UN says that an additional 31 people have died since last week's report, raising the post-election death toll to 210

At least 210 people have been killed in Ivory Coast since a presidential stand-off escalated in mid-December, the United Nations mission in the crisis-hit west African nation said on Thursday.

At least 31 people have died since the last toll reported by the United Nations Mission in Ivory Coast (UNOCI) on December 30, the mission's human rights spokesman Simon Munzu told journalists, bringing the total to 210.

The toll includes those killed during the crisis pitting incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo against the man the world says won the 28 November presidential run-off, Alassane Ouattara, and ethnic unrest in the west of the country.

Munzu said 14 had been killed in ethnic clashes in the western town of Duekoue since the start of the week.

He said the clashes between members of the Guere and Malinke ethnic groups in the town located some 500 kilometres (300 miles) west of the commercial capital Abidjan erupted following the death of a woman during a robbery.

He declined to directly link the events with the presidential crisis in Abidjan, but said, "We feel that what happened in Duekoue is a reflection of the tendency towards intercommunal tension and violence."

The death toll counts those killed since troops loyal to Gbagbo shot dead several of Ouattara's supporters as they marched on state television on 16 December.

Ouattara remains besieged in his camp's temporary headquarters at a hotel resort in Abidjan despite intensive regional mediation efforts aimed at ending the deadly stand-off.

UN rights experts said last week they feared reports of widespread post-election violence in the Ivory Coast amounted to crimes against humanity. The UN has said that it has been prevented from fully investigating alleged atrocities, including reports of mass graves.

UN peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy said Wednesday that he was worried about an eruption of ethnic fighting near Ivory Coast's Liberian border.

Citing a toll of seven dead, he said it was "the start of conflict in the west."

Duekoue is just within the area which remained under Gbagbo forces' control following a failed 2002 coup which saw rebels take over the north of the country.

The notoriously lawless Liberian border area is the scene of regular deadly clashes between the various groups living there, often linked to land disputes.

Some 22,000 Ivorians, including supporters of both presidential rivals, have fled across the border since the crisis broke, according to the UN refugee agency.

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