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Terrorism & Security

Heavy fighting in Ivory Coast as forces clash around presidential palace

The US is calling for renegade former President Laurent Gbagbo to step down, while relief organizations report a massacre of hundreds in one western town.

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"The massacre took place in the 'Carrefour' quarter of town, controlled by pro-Ouattara forces, during clashes on Sunday 27 March to Tuesday 29 March," Nicholson said. "Caritas does not know who was responsible for the killing, but says a proper investigation must take place to establish the truth."

He said the victims included many refugees from fighting elsewhere in the country, where rival forces had been battling over a disputed November election.

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The AP notes that the link between the massacre and Ouattara's fighters could weaken support for Ouattara. The town of Duekoue has been a hotbed for the conflict between Ouattara and Gbagbo, as political and ethnic divisions there have worsened amid the arrival of refugees from fighting elsewhere in the country.

The massacre also justifies the worries of various relief organizations. As The Christian Science Monitor reported on Friday, those groups were concerned that the apparent end-stage of the fighting in Ivory Coast could increase the risk for civilian casualties.

In response to the worsening situation in Abidjan, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for Gbagbo to step down in order to put an end to the violence, reports Agence France-Presse.

"The path forward is clear," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said early Sunday. Gbagbo "must leave now so the conflict may end." ...
Clinton said the United States was "deeply concerned" by what she called "the dangerous and deteriorating situation" in the world's top cocoa producer, including recent reports of human rights abuses and massacres in the west of the country.

And a UN official expressed worry that the fighting in Ivory Coast could spill over into neighboring Liberia, risking a destabilization of a country still recovering from its own civil war.

The South African Press Association reports that Liberian officials worry that the return of Liberian mercenaries fighting in Ivory Coast could threaten the current peace in the nation. And some 130,000 refugees from Ivory Coast have fled to Liberia in recent months.

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