Ivory Coast's pro-Ouattara forces storm presidential palace
Rights groups warn that civilian casualties could be high as forces loyal to President-elect Alassane Ouattara surround the residence of incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo in Abidjan.
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Human Rights Watch also warned that forces loyal to Gbagbo have been accused of attacking West African immigrants, particularly Liberians, who they suspect of being potential mercenaries fighting on Ouattara's behalf.Skip to next paragraph
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"We are concerned about several things: one, there have been reports of scores of civilians killed or wounded by snipers of the Republican Guard, who are the presidential guard for former President Gbagbo, at their headquarters in Treichville; and two, there is a strong potential for reprisal killings by Ouattara's forces both in Abidjan and in other parts of the country where they have recently taken control," says Corinne Dufka, a West Africa researcher for Human Rights Watch in Dakar, Senegal.
"It's not clear what happens next. There is a lot of resistance and very heavy fighting going on, and the danger for civilians is very real."
Nearly 500 civilians, most of them Ouattara's supporters, have been killed in the past four months at the hands of Gbagbo's supporters. However, Ouattara's forces launched an offensive last week that could increase the death toll several-fold.
A UN spokesman told the BBC that “the countdown has started.” Some of Gbagbo’s top supporters within the military are defecting and seeking refuge with the UN and Ouattara has reportedly given his personal guarantee that Mr. Gbagbo will be safe.
But in the Abidjan neighborhood of Yopougon, Gbagbo’s supporters reportedly attacked the homes of colleagues who have abandoned the Gbagbo cause and some say that they will fight to the very end. Even a pro-Ouattara spokesman, Patrick Achi, told reporters that he doesn't believe Gbagbo will concede, according to Reuters.
Gbagbo “hasn't shown any signs of giving up. I don't think he will see the game is up, because he really believes God will save him,” Mr. Achi said.