, ABIDJAN, January 22 – At least one person was killed during an attack Saturday in Abidjan on a meeting of supporters of Ivory Coast’s ex-president Laurent Gbagbo, a diplomatic source told AFP.
“At the meeting site, there was one dead and three seriously wounded,” the diplomat said. A young Gbagbo supporter also told journalists he had seen one dead person at the site.
But Justin Koua, head of the ex-ruling party’s youth movement, who attended the rally, said two people had been killed and five seriously wounded.
“There are at least two dead confirmed for the moment, a woman and a man, and we have recorded five seriously injured,” he said.
The violence happened as supporters of Gbagbo trying to hold a rally to relaunch their movement came under attack from counter-demonstrators, identified by some observers as supporters of President Alassane Ouattara.
The demonstrators had gathered in a square in what was once Gbagbo’s stronghold district of Yopougon in the economic capital when they came under attack by a group of youths.
Police fired tear gas to keep the two sides apart, but the Gbagbo loyalists were forced to call off the meeting of the former ruling Ivorian Popular Front (FPI).
As the Gbagbo supporters tried to retaliate, the police, who were backed by troops of the Ivory Coast UN mission, fired several volleys of tear gas.
And when FPI leader Miaka Oureto began speaking, the stoning redoubled and the opponents stormed the square, sweeping up chairs and obliging a party official to abandon the meeting, advising people to go home in small groups.
The diplomatic source said that after the meeting had been called off, Ouattara supporters chased Gbagbo supporters down the neighbouring streets. At least seven cars were set on fire or otherwise wrecked, the source added.
Although police and paramilitary gendarmes were present, they were not armed, a symptom of their chronic lack of equipment.
Earlier Saturday, Leonard Nieoule, the secretary general of the Red Cross in Ivory Coast, said medics at the scene had treated 45 injured people.
They took 10 people to medical centres of whom two were seriously wounded, he added.
Koua blamed young activists loyal to Ouattara for the violence.
“In terms of security, the state didn’t do its job,” he said.
Peacekeepers from the UN’s mission in Ivory Coast (ONUCI) were also at the scene and a statement from the mission “vigorously condemned” the violence.
It called on the government to take action to find out what had happened and arrest those responsible, offering to help with any investigation.
The statement also called for calm and appealed to all sides to avoid doing anything that might make the situation worse.
Gbagbo’s refusal to quit after his defeat in a November 2010 election triggered a conflict that left around 3,000 people dead before Ouattara took power with the support of UN and French peacekeeping forces.
Gbagbo was arrested in April 2011 and is now in The Hague awaiting trial by the International Criminal Court, accused of crimes against humanity for having his alleged role in the unrest