"In the past few days, forces loyal to Mr. Gbagbo have intensified and escalated their use of heavy weapons such as mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns against the civilian population in Abidjan," Mr. Ban said from New York.
Regional groups such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have demanded military action to remove Gbagbo. He refused to step down from power after losing a Nov. 28, 2010, runoff election that was deemed free and fair by the African Union, the United Nations, and others. But other African states have condemned foreign intervention, including that by the African Union, which has attempted numerous mediation efforts, all of which have failed.
The AU’s last mission, a panel of five presidents that included South African President Jacob Zuma, called on Gbagbo to step down, a move that Gbagbo refused.
Death toll mounting
With the stalemate slipping into an all-out civil war, the death toll has mounted, with civilians bearing the brunt.
UN observers counted some 800 casualties in the Western Ivorian town of Duekoue alone, where Gbagbo’s forces fled and Ouattara’s forces took over late last week in a lightning offensive. Both sides blame each other for the massacre. In Abidjan itself, the nation’s largest city, controlled until recently by Gbagbo’s troops, the death toll had been up to 500 over the past four months, but that toll will surely increase as troops from both sides fight street by street.
In a city with no news outlets – the pro-Gbagbo state TV station has been shut down since Ouattara’s forces arrived – rumors have run rife through Abidjan.