Both Ouattara and Gbagbo forces are accused of heinous crimes against civilians in the Ivory Coast [EPA]

Troops loyal to Alassane Ouattara, the Ivorian president, have killed at least 149 real or suspected supporters of Laurent Gbagbo in Abidjan since the capture and arrest of the former leader, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

At least 95 unarmed people mostly from ethnic groups aligned to Gbagbo were executed in operations in late April and May, HRW said in findings that will raise further questions over the behaviour of soldiers already suspected of abuses elsewhere.

"The hope of a new era following President Ouattara's inauguration will fade fast unless these horrible abuses against pro-Gbagbo groups stop immediately," Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at the New York-based group, said on Thursday.

"The president has repeatedly promised credible, impartial investigations and prosecutions. Now is the time to keep those promises."

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The findings were based on interviews with 132 victims and witnesses violence by both sides during the battle for Abidjan and just after Gbagbo's April 11 arrest.

Pro-Gbagbo fighters were found to have killed at least 220 men.

Gbagbo's refusal to accept defeat in a November 28 election triggered a four-month conflict in which at least 3,000 civilians were killed, the economy collapsed and cocoa exports from the world's top grower suspended.

Ouattara has insisted justice must apply to all sides and promised to launch a truth and reconciliation process aimed at healing wounds in a country where tensions between northerners and southerners have fuelled a decade of instability.

Hundreds were killed in a massacre in inter-ethnic violence in the western town of Duekoue as forces loyal to Ouattara advanced towards Abidjan in late-March.

A report by the London-based rights group Amnesty International last month said pro-Ouattara troops were involved in the massacre and were responsible for other abuses.

Source: Agencies