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Africa
Families trapped in Cote d'Ivoire
UN refugee agency says 60 families without food have been prevented from leaving violence-hit suburb of commercial city.
Last Modified: 02 Mar 2011 05:57 GMT
Families trapped in St Ambrose church are facing an acute shortage of food and water [Reuters]

Armed men have blocked some 60 families without food or water from leaving a church in Cote d'Ivoire's commercial city, the UN says.

One man who escaped the violence-plagued neighbourhood in Abidjan's Abobo district described "fleeing the smell of the dead", the UN said on Tuesday.

The developments follow days of violence which have seen youthful supporters of Laurent Gbagbo, the country's embattled leader, rampaging through Abidjan, pillaging shops owned by foreigners.

"There are reports of many dead bodies, buses burned and shops looted, and of young militiamen attacking people inside their homes," the UN refugee agency said in a statement.

One man, Jean Bleou, said Abobo was quickly becoming uninhabitable.

Several dozen people have been killed over the past week in clashes.

"I saw at least seven bodies on my way out," he said. "We were fleeing the smell of the dead."

Gbagbo has refused to cede power three months after the UN said Alassane Ouattara won November's election.

The standoff has claimed the lives of hundreds of Ouattara supporters, victims of targeted assassinations and "disappearances" carried out at night by security forces loyal to Gbagbo.

The conflict has reached a new level of intensity as commandos allied with Ouattara infiltrated Abobo.

They struck back, killing police and transforming the nature of the conflict from one pitting the police against unarmed demonstrators to one between two armed forces.

On Tuesday, hundreds of government employees lined up in front of local banks in Abidjan to receive their paychecks.

A teacher, Marcelin Gnahe, said he received his full pay of about $500 but was worried about the future.

"It's like someone has put a bag over your head and sealed it," he said.

The regional central bank headquartered in Senegal has frozen Gbagbo's access to state accounts, making it hard for him to continue paying civil servants.

Major international banks have shut their operations in Ivory Coast amid the uncertainty, prompting panic among customers.

Multiple delegations of African leaders have come through Abidjan, Ivory Coast's commercial hub, in an attempt to persuade Gbagbo to leave office.

Gbagbo has rejected all their proposals, including offers of amnesty and a comfortable exile abroad.

Opponents are trying to strangle his administration financially, and the European Union has prohibited European ships from docking in its port.

Meanwhile, the government said on Tuesday it would ban residents from filling jerrycans with fuel as fears of a shortage grow.

Motorists in Abidjan rushed to fill up their car's tanks, then went home to siphon the fuel into jerrycans, in an effort to stockpile. Some fuel stations have already run out of supplies and closed.

Source:
Agencies
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