Dozens of bodies littered the streets of an Abidjan neighbourhood as fighting continued between Ivory Coast troops and the remnants of a militia loyal to deposed leader Laurent Gbagbo.
The clashes highlight the West African country’s struggle to restore security after a violent power struggle between Gbagbo and his rival Alassane Ouattara, who won a November election and is now president.
“We have seen many dead. We recovered 40 bodies over two hours, but we were forced to stop because he had no room left in our van,” said Franck Kodjo, an official at the International Committee of the Red Cross, adding at least five corpses were from Tuesday’s fighting, Reuters reports.
The world’s largest cocoa grower nation tipped towards civil war after Gbagbo refused to cede power to Ouattara, triggering a conflict that killed thousands and displaced more than a million people and only began to ease with Gbagbo’s arrest last month.
A commander for the Ivorian army, known as the FRCI, said the remaining pro-Gbagbo fighters in the Abidjan neighbourhood of Yopougon were mostly Liberians who had crossed the border in the election dispute’s aftermath as soldiers for hire.
Efforts to disarm them have so far failed.
“We are in the process of securing the town but there are heavy weapons,” the commander said. “We’re not the ones firing them, it is those we oppose, the Liberians,” he said.
Other parts of Ivory Coast’s main city were coming back to life after the conflict, with banks reopening and street traffic slowly returning to normal.
Ivory Coast’s main industry, the cocoa sector, is poised to resume export at the end of this week of nearly a half a million tonnes of beans backed as a result of the conflict, exporters said on Tuesday.
Ouattara’s government is investigating Gbagbo and his inner circle for alleged human rights abuses during the conflict as he used his military to cling to power. Gbagbo, under house arrest in the country’s north, called this week for his supporters to allow the country to restart its economy in peace.