Four soldiers serving with the United Nations peacekeeping force in Côte d'Ivoire were seriously wounded today when they came under attack by forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo, a day after the UN troops repulsed another assault by the same armed group.
In today's attack, an escort patrol unit of the UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) came under fire by Mr. Gbagbo's Special Forces in the Plateau area of Abidjan, the country's commercial capital, while carrying out a humanitarian mission.
Mr. Gbagbo is Côte d'Ivoire's former president who refuses to step down despite his defeat in a runoff presidential election held last November, when he lost to opposition leader Alassane Ouattara, the country's internationally-recognized president.
The wounded UN peacekeepers are being treated at the mission's medical clinic in Abidjan.
“UNOCI condemns this wave of targeted attacks by Laurent Gbagbo's Special Forces against UNOCI's headquarters and patrols and warns that those responsible will not remain unpunished,” the UN mission said in a statement.
Yesterday, UNOCI soldiers on patrol were attacked by Mr. Gbagbo's troops in a suburb of Abidjan, sparking an exchange of gunfire during which five members of the former president's forces were shot.
None of the soldiers of the UN Operation Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) were hurt during yesterday's fire fight in the Cocody suburb of Abidjan.
“UNOCI wishes to remind all concerned that its peacekeepers are operating under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter, which authorises the use of force when under attack,” the mission said in a press release.
“UNOCI would also like to reiterate that it does not wish to have a confrontation with any of the Ivorian forces,” it added.
Troops supporting Mr. Ouattara reportedly appear poised for a final push to oust Mr. Gbagbo.
The UN human rights yesterday urged forces loyal to Mr. Ouattara to show restraint after reports suggested they have been committing serious rights violations during their advance towards Abidjan.
Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), told a news conference in Geneva of having received “unconfirmed but worrying” reports of human rights violations committed by the pro-Ouattara group known as Forces Républicaines de Côte d'Ivoire (FRCI) during their advance towards Abidjan.
“Reports suggest they have engaged in looting and extortion, as well as serious human rights violations such as abductions, arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment of civilians,” he stated.
The Invisible Commando group, which has been fighting against the forces loyal to Mr. Gbagbo, is also reported to have continued to commit abuses inside Abidjan, he added.
Pro-Gbagbo forces have also continued to commit violations on a daily basis, including the killing of two civilians who were reportedly burnt alive by pro-Gbagbo militiamen in Gagnoa, Mr. Colville noted.