At least 5 officers killed in Ivory Coast; 3 peacekeepers injured

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At least 5 officers killed in Ivory Coast; 3 peacekeepers injured

Post by BLACK on Thu Jan 13, 2011 12:47 am

Abidjan, Ivory Coast (CNN) -- Violence in Ivory Coast was
ongoing amid a tense political standoff Wednesday, with at least five
police officers killed and three U.N. peacekeepers wounded in an Abidjan
neighborhood, officials said. The police officers were killed
Tuesday night by heavily armed gunmen in what authorities said was a
targeted attack in the densely populated Abobo area of the city, a
police source said Wednesday. The three U.N. peacekeepers
sustained minor injuries overnight when they "came under crossfire from
both sides of the road" while returning from a patrol, the U.N.
operation in Ivory Coast said in a statement Wednesday. The U.N. forces
-- a joint team of military and U.N. police -- were forced to return
fire, the operation said. The ambush came a day after forces
belonging to self-declared President Laurent Gbagbo blocked and looted a
food convoy, the operation said, adding it "reiterates its call for
calm and urges all parties concerned to avoid recourse to violence."

Amnesty International issued a statement
warning of a fresh outbreak of violence in the wake of the five
officers' deaths, which it said happened early Wednesday. "Some
of the worst armed clashes so far broke out in the city of Abidjan
today," the organization said. An unnamed eyewitness told Amnesty
International they heard "heavy exchanges of fire" around midnight, the
statement said, and this morning they saw "three military vehicles burnt
out" and the body of a member of the security forces. Five
other people were killed earlier Tuesday in clashes between police and
supporters of the nation's president-elect amid an ongoing political
standoff in the West African nation. The dead included three
police officers and two demonstrators, the governor of Abidjan said
Tuesday. The deaths came a day after the U.N. Security Council condemned
the violence that has erupted since the country's November 28
presidential runoff election and "urged all parties to exercise
restraint." The cocoa-producing nation was plunged into crisis
when Alassane Ouattara was declared the winner of the election, but the
incumbent, Gbagbo, refused to leave office. The Security Council
expressed its support for efforts by the African Union and the Economic
Community of West African States in pursuing a peaceful resolution of
the crisis. At the same time, the council repeated its readiness
to impose measures -- including sanctions -- against those who threaten
the peace process by blocking the work of the U.N. mission and others or
"commit serious violations of human rights and international
humanitarian law." Meanwhile, Ouattara is willing to add Gbagbo
supporters to his Cabinet, provided the incumbent steps down, Ivory
Coast's ambassador to the United Nations said this week. Ambassador
Youssoufou Bamba said Ouattara would not enter a power-sharing
government similar to that in Zimbabwe but that he would be open to a
unity Cabinet. U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq could not confirm any
such offer from the Ouattara government and said that U.N.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon still calls for Gbagbo to step down in
favor of an orderly transition. Ouattara told CNN last week that
he welcomes a proposal for direct negotiations with Gbagbo -- on the
condition that Gbagbo recognize Ouattara as president. But in a
telephone interview Tuesday, Gbagbo spokesman Ahoua Don Melo rejected
the idea, saying Ouattara "should first go to the Constitutional Council
to get recognized as the president before making any proposal." An
independent election commission declared Ouattara the winner of the
vote, but the country's Constitutional Council invalidated those results
and declared Gbagbo the winner. The U.S. Treasury froze Gbagbo's
assets in the United States last week and barred Americans from doing
business with him. His wife and three top aides also were sanctioned. Ouattara remains holed up in the Golf Hotel under the protection of U.N. peacekeepers. The United Nations and an ever-increasing number of other nations have recognized Ouattara, a former prime minister, as the rightful winner.
The United States and other countries have offered Gbagbo what they call a "dignified exit," which could mean living and working in other countries, including the United States. Gbagbo, however, has ignored those offers and has refused to accept telephone calls from U.S. officials. Ouattara has said he will ensure protection for Gbagbo if he concedes, said
Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the African Union envoy for a
multinational mediation effort. U.N. Security Council members
have also "strongly condemned and demanded an immediate halt" to media
efforts to "propagate false information to incite hatred and violence"
and condemned the ongoing blockade around the Golf Hotel. Meanwhile,
the U.N. refugee agency is building a refugee camp for Ivorians fleeing
to neighboring Liberia. The camp will initially be capable of housing
some 18,000 refugees. At present, there are about 25,000 Ivorian refugees in Liberia, with about 600 people arriving daily.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said it has sufficient relief
supplies for about 30,000 people in Liberia and "is ready to mobilize
stocks from Ghana for an additional 30,000 people if the need arises."

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