, WASHINGTON, Mar 9 – President Barack Obama on Wednesday condemned "abhorrent" violence in the Ivory Coast, saying the United States was deeply concerned about escalating clashes that have left scores dead.
"I strongly condemn the abhorrent violence against unarmed civilians in Cote d\’Ivoire," Obama said in a written statement.
"I am particularly appalled by the indiscriminate killing of unarmed civilians during peaceful rallies, many of them women, including those who were gunned down as they marched in support of the legitimately elected president Alassane Ouattara.
"Reports indicate that the women were shot to death by security forces loyal to former president Laurent Gbagbo."
At least three men and a woman on Wednesday became the latest victims of an increasingly bloody post-electoral crisis, which the UN fears could become a full-blown civil war, when they were shot dead in Abidjan\’s Treichville neighborhood.
According to medics and AFP correspondents at the scene, the four were killed in violence which flared following a rally by hundreds of supporters of Ouattara, who was Gbagbo\’s challenger in November\’s run-off.
Several other people were wounded in the violence which comes only days after seven women were shot dead at a similar a rally last week.
"The United States remains deeply concerned about escalating violence, including the deepening humanitarian and economic crisis and its impact in Cote d’Ivoire and neighboring countries," Obama said.
"All armed parties in Cote d’Ivoire must make every effort to protect civilians from being targeted, harmed, or killed.
"The United States reiterates its commitment to work with the international community to ensure that perpetrators of such atrocities be identified and held individually accountable for their actions."
Gbagbo has refused to hand power to Ouattara, who is internationally regarded as the winner of the run-off election, despite mediation, sanctions and the threat of foreign intervention.
"It is time for former President Gbagbo to heed the will of his people, and to complete a peaceful transition of power to President Ouattara," Obama said.
"The people of Cote d’Ivoire have extraordinary talent and potential, and they deserve leadership that is responsive to their hopes and aspirations."
Ouattara is holed up in Abidjan\’s Golf Hotel under a blockade by forces loyal to Gbagbo.
He is protected by troops of a United Nations mission and the New Forces armed group, which controls the northern half of the country.
Fighting has intensified in recent days in Abidjan and the west of the country, where New Forces fighters allied with Ouattara wrested a town from Gbagbo\’s control at the weekend.