A new mass grave containing 29 bodies has been found in a restive suburb of Ivory Coast’s commercial capital, said a resident who said the victims were killed in the aftermath of a political standoff that plunged the country into violence.
UN investigators had said they were investigating the reports of a new mass grave.
Yopougon resident Brahima Bakayoko said late on Saturday that militants loyal to arrested former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo swept through the neighborhood amid celebrations over Gbagbo’s arrest on April 11.
He said the militants targeted members of two ethnic groups — the Dioula and the Baoule — that supported democratically elected Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara.
“Here, they killed two youths of the Baoule and they forced us to bury them in the same tomb,” he said, adding that he counted 29 bodies in the grave.
A reporter visited the site late on Saturday and spoke to other residents who said their family members were killed. They did not give their names.
The UN human rights office in Geneva, Switzerland, announced on Friday that their investigators were headed to a soccer field in Yopougon believed to be the site of a new mass grave.
“We are told that there is a vast field that is used to play soccer. It is now an open-air cemetery,” said Hamadoun Toure, spokesman for the UN mission in Ivory Coast.
Yopougon had voted in large numbers for Gbagbo. His militias are believed to have taken cover in Yopougon and the neighborhood was the scene of pitched battles until Thursday, when Ouattara’s military spokesman announced that the area had been brought under control.
Toure said it was not known whether the dead were killed by Gbagbo’s forces, or if they were Gbagbo supporters slain in reprisal killings by forces loyal to Ouattara.
Human rights groups have detailed massacres by the forces backing Ouattara, who swept the country coming in from the north, east and west.
Judicial officials began questioning Gbagbo on Saturday about human rights abuses committed while he was in power.
Gbagbo’s refusal to cede power after losing a poll in November last year sent the west African nation into a spiral of violence.
More than a 1,000 civilians were killed, first by the army controlled by Gbagbo and later by a former rebel group allied with Ouattara that seized control of the country and toppled Gbagbo.