Abidjan: At least 25 people were killed in Ivory Coast on Thursday when forces loyal to incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo fired a series of shells into a neighbourhood that supports his rival, the UN mission said.
One shell exploded in a busy market in an area of Abobo, a part of the main commercial city Abidjan that supports presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara, two residents said.
UN mission spokesman Hamadoun Toure said that an investigation team had gone to the scene of the blasts.
"They found that Gbagbo's security forces fired six projectiles and they killed between 25 to 30 people," he said, adding that at least 45, but up to 60 people had been wounded.
Gunfire and explosions were heard in various parts of Abidjan throughout Thursday. Toure had earlier confirmed the death toll from violence since a disputed mid-December election was now 410, so this attack would bring it up to 435.
The world's top cocoa grower has been in turmoil since the election between Ouattara and Gbagbo, which the former is recognised internationally to have won but which the latter has refused to concede.
A security source earlier denied involvement of pro-Gbagbo forces in the killing, saying they were no longer in the area.
"There have been no movements or firing from our positions on Abobo today," the security source said. "We're fighting rebels in Williamsville and Yopougon. We don't know what happened (in Abobo) and it isn't our concern. Ask the rebels."
Security in the main commercial city has been rapidly deteriorating since gunmen claiming allegiance to Ouattara took over its northern suburb, prompting pro-Gbagbo forces and allied youth militias to set up roadblocks and kill suspected rebels.
"I went to the market where the rocket landed. There were 12 dead bodies there, and there are many wounded," said witness Sumeiro Vassiriki. Arouna Sylla, another resident, said at least 10 people had been killed and many wounded.
Witnesses in Siaka Kone market in Marley, part of Abobo district, thought the shell had been fired by forces loyal to Gbagbo who arrived in an armoured vehicle.
Ouattara broke three months of silence on the gunmen fighting to defend his claim to the presidency on Thursday, saying he officially recognised the former rebels as the legitimate Army.
"Increase in victims"
Fighting has also spread to the west, across a north-south ceasefire line in place since the end of a 2002-3 civil war, increasing fears that an election meant to reunite the country will instead reignite the conflict.
Some 450,000 people have fled their homes, 90,000 of them to neighbouring Liberia because of renewed fighting in the west.
First Published: Friday, March 18, 2011, 09:29