At least 247 people have been killed in violence in Côte d’Ivoire since its disputed presidential election in late November, the United Nations human rights office said on Friday.
The death toll is up from 210 a week ago, UN human rights spokesperson Rupert Colville told a media briefing in Geneva.
The latest fatalities include four civilians and seven police killed in clashes in the Abidjan suburb of Abobo, he said.
The West African country, the world’s top cocoa producer, has been in crisis since a November 28 presidential election that both incumbent Laurent Gbagbo and rival Alassane Ouattara claim to have won. Ouattara was proclaimed the winner by the electoral commission and is widely regarded by foreign governments as having legitimately won the UN-certified poll.
The UN suspects many of the dead were killed by pro-Gbagbo security forces or allied militias in night-time raids on neighbourhoods such as Abobo that are seen as pro-Ouattara. Hundreds of other people may have been abducted and taken to secret detention centres, UN officials there say.
Forty-nine people are unaccounted for, including 20 reported as having disappeared in the past week, according to Colville.
UN officials have not had access to three alleged mass graves, including the latest one reported in Issia near the central town of Daloa, whose existence has not been confirmed, he said.
“It is alleged to be a mass grave with many bodies. That is all we know at this point,” Colville said. UN military observers, part of the peacekeeping force UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (Unoci), had been informed about it by telephone on Monday.
“Unoci military and police officers went on mission there the following day, the January 11, to investigate but they were unable to find the alleged grave and were unable to confirm whether it actually exists or not,” he said.
“They made two attempts to reach these earlier alleged mass graves. Both times they were not allowed by the [Gbagbo] security forces to get to the areas. But certainly with allegations that serious, you don’t give up on it,” he said.
Forces loyal to Gbagbo began attacking and burning UN vehicles in Côte d’Ivoire on Thursday as tensions escalated between Gbagbo and the world body. — Reuters