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UN convoy attacked in Abidjan

UN peacekeeping forces have come under attack in the Ivorian capital of Abidjan as tensions grow over the outcome of the recent presidential run-off election in the West African country.

A hostile crowd fired shots at a UN convoy in the Abobo district on Wednesday. The peacekeepers responded with warning shots, Radio France Internationale reported on Thursday.

“The patrol did not fire on the crowd,” spokesman for the UN peacekeeping forces in Ivory Coast, Hamadoun Toure, told journalists on Thursday.

He added that UN peacekeepers on patrol were blocked by barricades and a crowd then surrounded the vehicles. After that, gunmen, who had holed up inside a building, opened fire on the UN convoy.

“We did not shoot into the crowd, just so that is clear,” the UN official noted.

Almost 20,000 Ivorians have fled to neighboring Liberia following the crisis which followed the disputed November 28 election. The United Nations expects the number of refugees to hit 30,000, according to Reuters.

The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR in a Saturday statement said that the growing number of Ivorian refugees has had a major impact on several Liberian communities.

“Our staffs report that host community houses are full and congested,” the UNHCR said.

“There are homes where 7 to 20 family members share a single room.”

The embattled self-declared Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo has ignored calls from countries both on the African continent and worldwide to concede defeat to Alassane Ouattara in November 28 run-off presidential election.

“Between 16 and 21 December, human rights officers have substantiated allegations of 173 killings, 90 instances of torture and ill treatment, 471 arrests and detentions and 24 cases of enforced or involuntary disappearances,” UN’s Deputy Human Rights Chief Kyung-wha Kang said on Thursday.

The European Union on December 13 slapped sanctions against Gbagbo and his political aides to intensify his diplomatic isolation.

The union gave carte blanche to draft a list of officials deemed to be “obstructing the process of peace and national reconciliation … and who are jeopardizing the proper outcome of the electoral process,” EU ministers said in a statement.

Sanctions including visa bans and asset freezes “will particularly target those leading figures who have refused to place themselves under the authority of the democratically elected President,” the statement read.

“We call for an immediate and peaceful handover of power,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told reporters after the ministerial meeting.

“We decided to adopt, without delay, restrictive measures against those who are obstructing peace and reconciliation.”

“I hope today’s decision will persuade the incumbent government to respond before we reach that stage,” she said.

On December 9, the 53-nation African Union (AU) decided to suspend the membership of Ivory Coast over the disputed presidential election.

The AU said the suspension would remain until president-elect Ouattara takes power.

On December 2, Ivory Coast’s electoral commission announced that opposition candidate Ouattara had won the nation’s long-awaited presidential election with 54 percent of the vote.

However, the Constitutional Council immediately contested the result, citing the electoral commission’s failure to declare the vote result by its declared deadline.

The council overruled earlier provisional poll results a day later and declared Gbagbo as the winner of the country’s presidential run-off election.

The opposition leader Ouattara had earlier named Guillaume Soro to head his government as prime minister should he win the presidential election.

“The process underway to settle this conflict is irreversible,” Soro said.

The disputed presidential election has raised the risk of a long power struggle in the country.

The world’s top cocoa-producing nation is still reeling from the 2002-2003 civil war, which split the West African country in two.

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