Full horror of slaughter in Ivory Coast is exposed
The scale of ethnic massacres in the Ivory Coast began to emerge yesterday after investigators found more than 100 bodies -- some burned alive and others thrown down a well -- in the space of 24 hours.
Forces loyal to the newly elected and internationally recognised leader, Alassane Ouattara, are under suspicion of carrying out some of the murders, as are those of his opponent, Laurent Gbagbo.
A spokesman for the UN said human rights workers operating in the country now feared they were witnessing a cycle of revenge killings. There were reports of members of ethnic groups loyal to either side being singled out to be killed or saved.
On the country's borders, refugees also spoke of rape being used as a weapon against women and children, again by both sides as well as by opportunist militias.
A week ago, more than 200 bodies were found in the town of Duekoue. The latest bodies were found on Thursday in Duekoue and nearby towns in the west of the country, Guiglo and Blolequin.
"With these very ugly tit-for-tat killings in Duekoue and 100 more bodies found just yesterday, you're talking about quite an escalation," Rupert Colville, the UN spokesman, said.
Troops loyal to Mr Ouattara have surrounded Mr Gbagbo in Abidjan as the stand-off between the two men, which has lasted since both declared victory in the presidential election at the beginning of December, reaches a climax.
Subsequent fighting has exposed the growing lawlessness of the last decade of Mr Gbagbo's rule, including sexual violence, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW). Aid workers say the conflict has also provoked local violence separate from the broader politics.
But it has also drawn into question the human rights credentials of Mr Ouattara, a former prime minister, who had previously been a senior official at the International Monetary Fund.
Corinne Dufka, a HRW researcher, told the UN media unit that the group had documented numerous cases of rape by pro-Gbagbo forces, who singled out political and ethnic opponents, as well as some cases by pro-Ouattara forces.
One woman told an aid worker she had been forced to watch while her four-year-old daughter was raped. In other cases women were raped in front of their children.
In the killings revealed yesterday, 15 bodies were found in Duekoue, some of them burned alive. Most or all were thought to be from the Gwere tribal grouping, which supports Mr Gbagbo, and to have been killed after Mr Ouattara's troops took the town.
The 200 killed last week also appeared to be Gwere people. In the killings in Blolequin, however, where 40 bodies were found, members of the Gwere tribe had been singled out and saved. A further 60 bodies were found in Guiglo.
Mr Colville said further reports of killings were still to be investigated. (© The Daily Telegraph, London)