Up to 1 million flee Ivory Coast violence: UN
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Last Updated: Friday, March 25, 2011, 23:55
  
Abidjan (Ivory Coast): With possessions balanced on their heads, about 1,000 people frantically crowded around buses rented by Mali to evacuate its citizens of Friday from Ivory Coast, as the UN said up to 1 million have fled their homes amid fears of civil war.

More than 2 million Malians live in neighboring Ivory Coast, and human rights groups say the foreigners are facing growing threats of violence as the Ivorian political crisis intensifies. Evacuation efforts have been hampered by a lack of buses so far.

"700 today, 700 tomorrow. Everyone who wants to leave will be able to as long as I'm here," said Hamet Diawara, president of the council of Malians in Ivory Coast.

Incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo has refused to cede office despite his rival Alassane Ouattara being recognized by the international community as the rightful winner of November's presidential election.

Pro-Gbagbo forces have attacked foreigners from the region whose countries have supported Ouattara.

At least 33 citizens of Burkina Faso have been killed while another 35 are missing, said Albert Ouedraogo, the chairman of the Tocsin, the main diaspora association, from the Burkinabe capital.

"We're afraid. Everyone's leaving," said Abdias Goita, a father of two who sat patiently in the shade next to the Malian buses. "My brother had his door broken down by pro-Gbagbo militias. He gave them all the money he had about 200,000 francs (USD 430) but they slit his throat anyway."

Armed youth manning makeshift roadblocks have sprung up around the city. Activists accuse them of stopping and searching all cars, sometimes beating and killing those with foreign-sounding names.

"I'm of Malian origin, but I was born here," said one woman, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals. "Now, because of the election ... we are forced to leave, to leave the place where we were born and where we grew up."

The United Nations said today that up to 1 million people have fled their homes to safer areas.

"The massive displacement in Abidjan and elsewhere is being fueled by fears of all-out war," Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, told reporters in Geneva.

PTI


First Published: Friday, March 25, 2011, 23:55


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