Strife in the Ivory coast has claimed the lives of hundreds this week. The fighting has been between forces loyal to the President Laurent Gbagbo and rebel forces seeking to install Alassane Ouattara, winner of last year's election and recognized by much of the international community as the country's president. Although an exact number is unknown, some aid organizations are saying today that the death toll approaches 1000.
Though violence, much of it ethnically-based, has erupted around the country, much of it is centered around Abidjan, the country's largest city. Ouattara's forces, who have already claimed 80% of the country, have made advances into the city but have met resistance from fighters loyal to Gbagbo. Outtara's forces were dealt another blow when Gbagbo loyalists managed to retake the state-run television station.
The most severe cases of violence are being reported in Duékoué, a town in the western part of the country that was captured by rebel forces last week. There the death count is thought to have reached 800. The “town was full of bodies,” Patrick Nicholson, a spokesman for Caritas, a Catholic charity, told The New York Times. “They saw bodies in the city, in the bush, mass graves.” His report was corroborated by a team of Red Cross workers.
Refugees who have escaped to Liberia bring reports of rebel fighters on Ouattara's side conducting massacres, having been ordered "to kill everyone and anyone." Ouattara denies that his forces are responsible for the mass killings, but his control over his troops is being called into question. Up until now he has maintained an advantage in the eyes of the international community, but if these claims prove true, this could quickly change.