Ivory Coast`s Ouattara faces new allegations

HRW said forces backing Alassane Ouattara killed or raped hundreds of people.

Abidjan: Fighters for Ivorian President-in-waiting Alassane Ouattara were accused on Saturday of new atrocities as the United Nations warned that forces backing his rival Laurent Gbagbo were gaining ground in Abidjan.

Human Rights Watch said forces backing Ouattara killed or raped hundreds of people and burned villages during a rampage in late March, citing new evidence of summary killings of Gbagbo supporters in the far west, where Ouattara`s forces swept through en route to Abidjan.

UN investigators had said on Friday they had found 118 bodies in the past 24 hours.

"The reports that the UN human rights team in Côte d`Ivoire are sending back are utterly horrifying," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a statement.

Ouattara, the internationally recognised winner of November elections, denied that his forces were involved when UN leader Ban Ki-moon asked him about the killings in the west.

He promised in a televised address on Thursday that the perpetrators of the crimes would be punished.

Several hundred people were reportedly massacred in the western town of Duekoue last week, with forces loyal to Gbagbo and Ouattara blaming each other and the International Criminal Court in The Hague announcing a formal probe.

"To understand the tragic events in Ivory Coast, a line cannot be drawn between north and south, or supporters of Gbagbo and Ouattara," said Daniel Bekele, HRW`s Africa director.

"Unfortunately, there are those on both sides who have shown little regard for the dignity of human life."

On Friday, meanwhile, UN peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy said that troops fighting for strongman Gbagbo, who has refused to cede power, still had tanks and other heavy weapons and had made advances in Abidjan, the west African nation`s main city.

They were just one kilometre (half a mile) from the hotel headquarters of Ouattara, Le Roy told reporters after a UN Security Council briefing.

Bureau Report

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