ABIDJAN, Mar 4 – At least six women were shot and killed in Abidjan Thursday by forces loyal to outgoing Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo, leading the UN Security Council to voice deep concern about the risk of a new civil war.
The women were attending a rally in the Ouattara stronghold of Abobo in the north of Abidjan.
There is growing international concern at the rising tension in Ivory Coast since mid-February with fears that the crisis provoked by the November presidential election may degenerate into civil war.
Members of the 15-nation council "condemn the threats, obstructions and acts of wanton violence perpetrated" by Gbagbo\’s forces against civilians and UN forces, said a Security Council statement.
"They express their concern about the risk of resurgence of civil war and urge all parties to show utmost restraint to prevent it," said the statement.
The council urged the UN mission "to use all necessary means to carry out its mandate, in particular to protect the civilians."
The council was to have talks again later Thursday to discuss the Abidjan attack on the demonstration by women supporters of Ouattara.
The United States condemned Gbagbo\’s "moral bankruptcy."
"The moral bankruptcy of Laurent Gbagbo is evident as his security forces killed women protesters and his country runs out of resources," US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said on the microblogging website Twitter.
Fifty people had been killed in the week leading up this incident, bringing to at least 365 the number of deaths since the end of 2010, according to the United Nations.
Several hundred people at a roundabout in Abobo had been chanting "Gbagbo, get out", "We don\’t want Gbagbo" and "Alassane for president" when the shooting started, a resident told AFP.
Soldiers from the country\’s Defence and Security Forces (FDS), which back Gbagbo, drove up in an armoured vehicle and "they opened fire," another said. "Six women were killed on the spot."
Other witnesses said the toll was higher and there were many wounded, some by gunfire and others in a stampede that followed the shooting.
There was no independent confirmation.
Traces of blood and brains were visible on the roadway after the demonstrators were dispersed. Pro-Ouattara youths blocked the main road in Abobo and surrounding small streets with wrecked cars, burning tyres and upturned tables.
Abobo was the scene of fighting last week when the FDS and insurgent exchanged fire with heavy weapons.
Of the 50 victims of violence last week 26 civilians died in Abobo, according to Guillaume Ngefa, a human rights official with the UN mission in Ivory Coast ONUCI.
In addition "more than 200,000 people" have already fled the district, where 1.5 million people live, he said.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said she was "extremely worried" by the escalation of violence and condemned "the attacks by supporters of Gbagbo against UN staff, civilians and UN peacekeepers."
While the situation within the country is rapidly getting worse, no political outcome is in sight.
The panel of five African heads of state charged by the African Union with resolving the crisis in Ivory Coast which was supposed to have reached "binding solutions" by the end of February finally has the whole month of March, a sign of divisions within it.
It is due to meet on Friday in Nouakchott, under the presidency of the Mauritanian head of state Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.