Sol­diers gun down protest­ing women

Townsville Bulletin - - World Snapshot -

SOL­DIERS back­ing Ivory Coast’s de­fi­ant leader mowed down women protest­ing his re­fusal to leave power in a hail of gun­fire early yes­ter­day, killing at least six and shock­ing a nation where women’s marches have his­tor­i­cally been used as a last r e s o r t a g a i ns t a n un­re­strained army.

Be­cause the pres­i­dent’s sec u r i t y f o r c e h a s s h o wn al­most no re­serve in open­ing fire on un­armed civil­ians, the women de­cided this week to or­gan­ise the march in the nation’s com­mer­cial cap­i­tal, as­sum­ing sol­diers would be too ashamed to open fire.

But at least six of the thou­sands of women demon­strat­ing were killed on the spot, said Mo­hamed Dosso, an as­sis­tant to the mayor of Abobo who said he saw the bod­ies.

The three-month old con­flict in Ivory Coast has en­tered a new level of in­ten­sity. With each pass­ing day, the regime of Lau­rent Gbagbo is prov­ing it is will­ing to go to any length to stay in of­fice fol­low­ing an elec­tion that in­ter­na­tional ob­servers say he lost.

S i r a h D r a n e , 4 1 , w h o helped or­gan­ise the march, said she was hold­ing the mega­phone and pre­par­ing to ad­dress the large crowd that had gath­ered at a traf­fic cir­cle in Abobo.

‘‘ That’s when we saw the tanks,’’ she said. ‘ ‘ There were thou­sands of women. And we said to our­selves, ‘ They won’t shoot at women.’ . . . I heard a boom. They started spray­ing us. . . . I tried to run and fell down. The oth­ers tram­pled me. Open­ing fire on un­armed women? It’s in­con­ceiv­able.’’

The at­tack prompted an im­me­di­ate re­buke from the US, which, like most gov­ern­ments, has urged Gbagbo to step down and has recogn i s e d h i s r i v a l a s t h e coun­try’s pres­i­dent.

‘‘ The moral bank­ruptcy of Lau­rent Gbagbo is ev­i­dent as his se­cu­rity forces killed women pro­test­ers,’’ said US State Depart­ment spokesman P. J. Crowley.

In New York, the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil said it is ‘‘ deeply c o n c e r n e d ’ ’ a b o u t t h e es­ca­la­tion of vi­o­lence in Ivory Coast and that it could lead to a resur­gence of civil war there.

Nearly 400 peo­ple have been kil l ed i n t he west African coun­try, in­clud­ing 32 in the last 24 hours, al­most all of them men who had voted for op­po­si­tion leader Alas­sane Ou­at­tara, ing to UN fig­ures.

Last week, Gbagbo’s se­cu­rity forces en­tered the Abobo neigh­bour­hood and be­gan shelling it with mor­tars, a shock­ing es­ca­la­tion in­di­cat­ing the army is will­ing to use war-grade weapons on its cit­i­zens.

Be­fore that, the bod­ies seen b y r e p o r t e r s had b ul l e t wounds where the point of im­pact was marked by a sin­gle stain of blood.

Since the es­ca­la­tion, the bod­ies seen by re­porters have ar­rived at the morgue in body bags drip­ping with blood.


Michelan­gelo’s David

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