While they were marching in support of Alassane Ouattara in Adidjan, in Ivory Coast, at least six women have been shot dead by Security forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo, witnesses said. (map, from bbcimg.co.uk)
The shooting took place on Thursday, when several hundred women gathered in the Abobo neighbourhood of Abidjan, the country’s commercial capital. They were shouting “Gbagbo, get out!” and “Alassane for president”, a resident told the AFP news agency.
An armoured personnel carrier and several pickup vehicles showed up as the women were protesting and opened fire, said Mohamed Dosso, an assistant to the mayor of Abobo.
After the incident, the US denounced Gbagbo’s “moral bankruptcy”.
On Twitter, the microblogging website, US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley wrote : “The moral bankruptcy of Laurent Gbagbo is evident as his security forces killed women protesters and his country runs out of resources.”
Days of heavy street fighting between police loyal to Mr Gbagbo and rebel soldiers supporting Mr Ouattara led more than 200,000 people to flee Abobo, said the UN.
The UN’s refugee agency has expressed alarm concerning the awful 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”.
A UN spokesperson in Ivory Coast confirmed that there might be a humanitarian crises in the country’s north which is controlled by Mr Ouattara’s supporters, were power and water supplies have been cut by Mr Gbagbo.
The country has been in turmoil since the presidential elections, when Mr Gbagbo refused to cede power after Mr Ouattara was internationally recognised to have won the polls.
The post-election violence has claimed the lives of hundreds of people, but last week marked a new level in the standoff as forces loyal to Mr Gbagbo began using deadly weapons like mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.
Several delegations of African leaders tried to persuade Mr Gbagbo to leave office, but he rejected every proposal, including offers of an amnesty and exile abroad.
In the mean time the UN has apologised to Belarus after falsely accusing the country of breaking arms embargo against Ivory Coast. A UN official admitted it had wrongly alleged the country had illegally shipped attack helicopters to the Gbagbo-led government.
In a statement on Monday the office of Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, had made the charge saying the “first delivery arrived reportedly” in “a serious violation of the embargo against Cote d’Ivoire which has been in place since 2004”.