800 dead in western Ivorian town, Red Cross says

GENEVA (Reuters) – At least 800 people were killed in intercommunal violence in the western Ivorian town of Duekoue this week, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Saturday.

“We have information that at least 800 persons were killed on March 29 (Tuesday) in Duekoue in intercommunal violence,” ICRC spokeswoman Dorothea Krimitsas told Reuters.

ICRC officials visited the Carrefour area of Duekoue on Thursday and Friday to assess needs and gather testimony, a statement said. They evacuated 28 bodies to the local morgue and will continue in this work.

“Our colleagues saw hundreds of bodies … We strongly suspect that was the result of intercommunal violence. Since Monday or so, tens of thousands of people have fled the area. This is not the first time there has been intercommunal violence in Duekoue,” Krimitsas said.

Dominique Liengme, head of the ICRC delegation in the country, said in a statement: “This incident is particularly shocking in its scope and brutality.”

The ICRC said earlier this week that thousands have been killed or injured in post-election violence since November, which has driven up to 1 million people from their homes in Abidjan alone. Some 123,000 Ivorians have fled to Liberia and 5,000 to Ghana, according to the U.N. refugee agency.

Fierce fighting spread across Abidjan on Friday as troops loyal to Ivory Coast’s Laurent Gbagbo fended off attacks by forces supporting Alassane Ouattara’s rival claim to the presidency.

The ICRC, an independent aid agency, said it condemned attacks on civilians and reminded all warring parties of their obligation under international humanitarian law to protect the civilian population.

(Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Stephanie Nebehay)

800 dead in western Ivorian town, Red Cross says