Ivory Coast: Clashes And Looting Amid Political Crisis

Youths in Ivory Coast have ransacked homes in Abidjan of allies of political leader Alassane Ouattara, while new clashes have broken out in the west.

People walk amongst broken furniture and smashed mirrors in the looted home of Dagobert Banzio, youth and sport minister in the cabinet of Alassane Ouattara, in Abidjan, Ivory Coast Sunday, March 6, 2011. Gangs of young people, actively aided by uniformed police, ransacked at least 10 houses in Abidjan belonging to officials allied with the internationally recognized president of Ivory Coast, as heavy fighting broke out in the country's west.

Youths in Ivory Coast have ransacked homes in Abidjan of allies of political leader Alassane Ouattara, while new clashes have broken out in the west.

An armed group supporting Mr Ouattara against his presidential rival, Laurent Gbagbo, captured the town of Toulepleu.

Ivory Coast has been in crisis since Mr Gbagbo refused to cede power to Mr Ouattara, the internationally recognised winner of November's vote.

The crisis has sparked warnings of a humanitarian crisis from aid agencies.

Witnesses in Abidjan said for the last several days groups of youths have been breaking into the homes of officials allied to Mr Ouattara and made off with belongings, while uniformed police looked on.

The officials have been staying with Mr Ouattara under UN protection at a hotel in the city.
Civil war fears

Near Ivory Coast's western border with Liberia, former rebels belonging to the New Forces took Toulepleu from Mr Gbagbo's forces, both sides said.

The New Forces control the northern half of Ivory Coast while the army in the south remains loyal to Mr Gbagbo, says the BBC's John James in
Abidjan.

The clashes in the town are a further sign that the ceasefire that froze the civil war in Ivory Coast seven years ago is increasingly at risk, says our correspondent.

UN peacekeepers monitoring the ceasefire say they are overstretched and cannot provide security for all civilians.

Districts of Abidjan loyal to Mr Ouattara have seen violent clashes for two weeks and the UN estimates some 200,000 people have fled the area.

On Thursday, security forces shot dead at least six women marching in support of Mr Ouattara in Abidjan's northern Abobo neighbourhood.

Aid agency Oxfam says people fleeing the violence are in need of clean water, food and shelter and warned the crisis risks becoming another "forgotten emergency".

The African Union's commission chief Jean Ping has left Abidjan after inviting both Mr Gbagbo and Mr Ouattara to a summit at the AU offices in Ethiopia on Thursday.

The AU has appointed five African leaders to mediate an end to the crisis.

BBC