At least five women killed by forces loyal to country’s disputed president in commercial capital, Abidjan.
Last Modified: 03 Mar 2011 15:12 GMT
Security forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo, Cote d’Ivoire’s disputed president, have shot dead at least five women at a demonstration in support of his rival, Alassane Ouattara.
Thursday’s shooting took place after several hundred women gathered in the Abobo neighbourhood of Abidjan, the country’s commercial capital, shouting “Gbagbo, get out!” and “Alassane for president”, a resident told the AFP news agency.
Mohamed Dosso, an assistant to the mayor of Abobo, said an armoured personnel carrier and several pickup vehicles showed up as the women were protesting and opened fire.
The US denounced Gbagbo’s “moral bankruptcy” follwing the incident.
“The moral bankruptcy of Laurent Gbagbo is evident as his security forces killed women protesters and his country runs out of resources,” Philip Crowley, the US State Department spokesman, said on the microblogging website Twitter.
The UN has said more than 200,000 people have fled Abobo amid days of heavy street fighting between police loyal to Gbagbo and rebel soldiers allied with Ouattara.
The UN’s refugee agency has 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”.
Gbagbo has cut power and water supplies to the country’s north which might fuel a humanitarian crisis, a UN spokesperson in Cote d’Ivoire has confirmed.
Kristen Saloomey, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in New York, said that the UN has handed out 14,000 litres of drinkable water in the affected area, which is controlled by Ouattara supporters.
Cote d’Ivoire has been in turmoil since Gbagbo refused to cede power in October last after Ouattara was internationally recognised to have won the presidential election.
The standoff reached a new level last week after forces loyal to Gbagbo began using deadly weapons, including mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.
The post-election violence has claimed the lives of hundreds of people.
Multiple delegations of African leaders have failed to persuade Gbagbo to leave office, with the president rejecting all of their proposals, including offers of an amnesty and exile abroad.
Meanwhile, the UN has apologised to Belarus after it falsely accused it of breaking arms embargo against Cote d’Ivoire.
A UN official admitted it had wrongly alleged the country had illegally shipped attack helicopters to the Gbagbo-led government.
The office of Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, had made the charge in a statement on Monday, saying the “first delivery arrived reportedly” in “a serious violation of the embargo against Cote d’Ivoire which has been in place since 2004”.