17 Dec 2010

At least 20 killed in Ivory Coast stand-off

8:23 pm on 17 December 2010

Bloody clashes have erupted in Abidjan and central Ivory Coast, leaving at least 20 people dead and many more hurt as the stand-off between two self-declared presidents spreads to the streets.

Supporters of Alassane Ouattara had intended to march on the headquarters of state television, held by his rival the incumbent Laurent Gbagbo, but fighting broke out on Thursday when they were faced with heavily-armed security forces, AFP reports.

Former rebels loyal to Mr Ouattara's choice of prime minister fought fierce gunbattles with Mr Gbagbo's government security forces in Abidjan and in the central town of Tiebissou on the 2003 civil war ceasefire line.

Both Mr Ouattara and Mr Gbagbo claim to have won November's election, and both have declared themselves president, leading to a dangerous new stand-off in a country already divided since 2002 into northern and southern armed camps.

Mr Ouattara has been recognised by the international community, but has proved unable to assert his rule, with Mr Gbagbo retaining control of the ministries, the army and the cocoa ports that are the key levers of state power.

UN concerned at violence

The United Nations' Security Council has expressed deep concern over the violence.

A statement by the council warned all sides would be held accountable under international law for any attacks against civilians, the BBC reports.

The UN, along with other international bodies, has recognised Mr Outtara as the winner of the election.