More bodies found in Ivory Coast amid aid alarm: UN
UN human rights investigators have found more than 100 bodies in the past 24 hours in western Ivory Coast in what appeared to have been ethnically driven killings, the UN human rights office said Friday.
The fresh evidence of massacres came as United Nations relief agencies called for humanitarian corridors to secure aid access to tens of thousands of people throughout the violence-hit West African country.
They also warned of the risk of mass outbreaks of disease including cholera in Abidjan, which was locked in a "dire" humanitarian situation and running out of water, UN officials said.
"The human rights team investigating... in west Cote d'Ivoire found more than 100 bodies in the past 24 hours in three locations," said Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
"All the incidents appear to have been at least partly ethnically motivated," he added. The killings are thought to have taken place in the last days of March.
The discovery followed earlier evidence of at least two other incidents last month in the area of Duekoue, including a mass grave containing nearly 200 bodies, according to UN officials
Colville said that in the latest find this week, about 40 bodies were found in Blolequin, west of Duekoue, where the "perpetrators appear to be Liberian mercenaries."
"The team also went to a nearby town of Guiglo, where they saw more than 60 bodies," he said, adding that some of the victims included people who were non-Ivorians from other west African countries.
Another 15 bodies were also found in Duekoue.
"There's very much an existing ethnic element to it," said Colville, noting that some victims were burned alive and others thrown down a well.
"I think one has to be a little bit cautious of assigning responsibilities," Colville said, underlining that the political stand-off between supporters of presidential rivals Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara had grafted on to ethnic tensions in the region.
"Certainly there has been an escalation in the past two weeks," he added.
Humanitarian sources speaking on condition of anonymity told AFP that UN peacekeeping troops were in the immediate area in Duekoue when killings took place last month and had not intervened.
Asked if the UN peacekeepers in Ivory Coast could intervene to protect civilians in the west, United Nations spokeswoman in Geneva, Corinne Momal-Vanian said: "I think it's also a matter of stretching our resources to the limit."
"Of course the mandate covers the whole of the country, at the moment the situation is very dire in Abidjan," she told journalists.
UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) spokeswoman Marixie Mercado warned of the "very real" threat of "mass outbreaks of disease" in Ivory Coast and among refugees in Liberia.
World Health Organisation spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said there was a risk that a cholera outbreak that was halted in Abidjan last year could reappear with a growing water shortage in the embattled city.
UN relief agencies appealed for humanitarian corridors in Ivory Coast to ensure safe access to thousands of people who have fled fighting and ease aid deliveries from Liberia and Ghana.
"It's an appeal to all the actors on ground. We need to have a security situation that permits our trucks to get through," explained Emilia Casella, a spokeswoman for the UN's World Food Food Programme.
Food for 27,500 people lasting for six days was delivered to the violence-hit town of Duekoue, the WFP said. More distributions were planned for 30,000 displaced people in the western area of Danane over the coming week and for nearly 20,000 people in northern areas.
© 2011 AFP