Abidjan — Ivory Coast presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara has rejected UN charges that his forces were involved in a massacre of hundreds of civilians.
The United Nations mission in Ivory Coast (ONUCI) said on Saturday that traditional hunters known as Dozos fought alongside Ouattara's forces and took part in killing 330 people in the western town of Duekoue.
Troops loyal to Ouattara launched an offensive early this week to dislodge incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo who has refused to cede power after losing a UN certified election to Ouattara.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Saturday that at least 800 people were killed in intercommunal violence in Duekoue this week.
It is not clear whether the 330 counted by ONUCI is included in that figure.
The UN said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke late on Saturday with Ouattara, who told him his forces were not involved in the Duekoue killings.
Guillaume Ngefa, the deputy head of the human rights division of the UN's mission in Ivory Coast (UNOCI) speaking on France24 television, blamed 220 of the deaths on pro-Ouattara forces. He said the killings happened between Monday and Wednesday as pro-Ouattara troops advanced southward.
He said pro-Gbagbo militia fighters killed over 110.
"The government (Ouattara's) notes with regret that the allegations of the deputy chief of ONUCI human rights division are not supported by any evidence after its preliminary investigation," Ouattara's government said in a statement.
It also denied that Dozos were part of its forces.
OVER 1300 DEATH
After swiftly taking control of swathes of the country, pro-Ouattara forces have met fierce resistance over the past three days.
Troops loyal to Gbagbo have held on to positions around the presidential palace in Abidjan, Gbagbo's residence and the state television.
In Paris, the French defense ministry said French troops have taken over Abidjan's airport and that France plans to send an additional 300 troops to Ivory Coast.
After a day and night of intense fighting, Abidjan was calm on Sunday morning with sporadic gunfire, Reuters reporters and residents said.
Heavy canon fire and shooting were heard overnight in the pro-Gbagbo neighborhood of Yopougon and also in Cocody, residents said.
The fighting has brought the number of people killed since the post-election violence began in November to over 1300.
Catholic charity Caritas said in a statement that teams visiting Duekoue reported that a thousand people have been killed or "disappeared."