JOHANNESBURG — Unknown attackers wielding machetes and guns killed more than 1,000 civilians in the neighborhood of an Ivory Coast town controlled by forces fighting to install the internationally recognized president, the Catholic charity Caritas told The Associated Press Saturday.
The U.N. mission in Ivory Coast said it has a team investigating the alleged mass killings in western Duekoue. It said most of the nearly 1,000 peacekeepers based there were protecting about 15 ,000 refugees at a Catholic mission in the town at the time.
Spokesman Patrick Nicholson of the Roman Catholic charity Caritas said workers visited Duekoue on Wednesday and found hundreds of bodies of civilians killed by bullets from small-arms fire and hacked to death with machetes.
They estimated more than 1,000 civilians were killed, he said.
The International Federation of the Red Cross put the death toll at about 800, in separate and independent visits Thursday and Friday.
Nicholson, the Caritas spokesman, said the killings occurred over three days in a neighborhood controlled by fighters loyal to internationally recognized President Alassane Ouattara, though it was not clear who the perpetrators were.
“The massacre took place in the ‘Carrefour’ quarter of town, controlled by pro-Ouattara forces, during clashes on Sunday 27 March to Tuesday 29 March,” Nicholson said. “Caritas does not know who was responsible for the killing, but says a proper investigation must take place to establish the truth.”
He said the victims included many refugees from fighting elsewhere in the country, where rival forces had been battling over a disputed November election.