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UN Report:  Ivory Coast Security Forces Planned Crackdown on Protesters - 2004-05-03

A U.N. report says a violent crackdown on an anti-government protest in Ivory Coast in March was carefully planned by security forces. Government officials are concerned about how information from the report is being released.

Contents of the U.N. report that were leaked by French RFI radio and the French news agency AFP, indicate at least 120 people were killed and more than 250 wounded during the crackdown in Abidjan.

The report is quoted as saying security forces acting under orders from the highest state authorities used indiscriminate force on the day of the planned protest March 25 and then committed massive human-rights violations for several days afterwards, going into homes of suspected opposition supporters, torturing and even killing some.

The report is also quoted as saying certain community groups were especially targeted, mainly northerners and foreigners living in poor neighborhoods.

It says march organizers bore some responsibility for the death toll, but it is quoted as saying this was not comparable to the actions of the security forces.

The government has said 37 people were killed in the crackdown, including two policemen, and that some so-called shadowy forces had been involved.

The minister of national reconciliation, Dano Djedje, says he has not read the report but he is suspicious of how it was released.

He said he does not understand why French media was given an exclusive to release the information. He said it should first have been shown to the Ivorian government before being made public.

Other Ivorian officials, including spokesmen for security forces, also said they had yet to see the report.

The protest was organized to call on Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo to fully implement the Ivorian peace accord that was signed in January 2003 but has yet to implemented. Mr. Gbagbo had banned the march, saying it was a renewed attempt to overthrow him.

Rebels who have controlled northern Ivory Coast since September 2002 are now refusing to rejoin a power-sharing government as long as Mr. Gbagbo remains in office.

Several thousand French and U.N. troops are deployed throughout Ivory Coast to try to ensure that fighting does not resume in the world's leading cocoa producing nation.