United Nations says Ivory Coast shelling may be 'war crime'

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Friday, March 18, 2011

After 25 people were killed Thursday by shells fired into the city of Abidjan in the Ivory Coast, the United Nations has issued a statement condemning the incident.

The shelling on Thursday resulted in around a hundred casualties, 25 of which were deaths. At least six shells were reportedly fired from military barracks into the district of Abobo, a region that supports Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognized president of the Ivory Coast after elections in late 2010.

According to the UN, forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo, who also claims to have won the election, were responsible for the shelling, though Gbagbo's supporters deny this.

The UN said that the incident was an act that "perpetrated against civilians, could constitute a crime against humanity." Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said that the UN will "continue to take the necessary steps to protect the civilian population" in the country.

A spokesperson for Gbagbo, Ahoua Don Mello, however, denied responsibility for the shelling, claiming that the UN allegations were part of a "conspiracy" with Ouattara and France, the Ivory Coast's former colonial ruler, that would result in the removal of Gbagbo from power.

France also condemned the shelling, saying it was "deliberate massacre of civilians," and requested that the UN Security Council impose sanctions against Gbagbo and his allies.

Unrest since the presidential election is estimated to have killed 410 people and caused 450,000 people to leave their homes.