ICRC warns civilians locked in Ivory Coast fighting

31st March 2011, Comments 0 comments

The international Red Cross on Thursday warned that thousands of civilians could become locked in the conflict in Ivory Coast, as forces allied to Alassane Ouattara closed in on the city of Abidjan.

"The ICRC is particularly concerned at the prospect of all out conflict taking place in the country's main urban centres, in particular with concern about what may happen in Abidjan," said Pierre Kraehenbuehl, director of operations at the International Committee of the Red Cross.

"This is a significant concern of ours," he told journalists.

Kraehenbuehl underlined that the situation for civilians and aid workers was highly volatile. He questioned the degree of control each side would have over militias, including foreign ones.

"We have had long standing experience in West Africa and we know how rapidly this can spiral out of control with devastating effects for the population," he added.

"The issue is about civilians being caught up and locked into the violence."

The ICRC appealed for an additional 15 million Swiss francs ($16.2 million, 11.5 million euros) for humanitarian aid in Ivory Coast, and 5.5 million francs for refugees in neighbouring Liberia.

Election-linked violence has left at least 470 people dead with as many as one million fleeing their homes, according to UN agencies, while at least 100,000 have sought refuge in Liberia amid allegations of human rights abuses on both sides.

Human Rights Watch on Thursday reported the massacre of at least 37 west African immigrants in the village of Bedi-Gouzan near the Liberia border by forces loyal to strongman Laurent Gbagbo forces against presumed Ouattara supporters.

Forces backing Ivory Coast's internationally recognised leader Ouattara moved swiftly towards the economic capital Abidjan on Thursday in a bid to oust Gbagbo.

Gbagbo refuses to acknowledge that he lost a presidential election to Ouattara, a former prime minister, last November.

© 2011 AFP

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