Tens of Thousands of Refugees Trapped at Christian Compound After Mass Slaughter in Duékoué
Hundreds of Christians were reportedly slaughtered last week outside the Salesian Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus mission in Duekou, Ivory Coast by predominantly Muslim troops loyal to president-elect Alassane Ouattara. Forces loyal to the UN-backed Ouattara made gains against the army loyal to sitting president Gbagbo, seizing swaths of western territory outside of their traditional northern stronghold last week. Rebels allied with Ouattara were also accused of carrying out revenge killings in a predominantly Ebrie village, an ethnic group that voted in large numbers for Gbagbo.
There are constant reports of savage attacks on villages by rebels armed with guns and machetes.
Thousands of refugees from the Ivory Coast in Liberia are reporting that the the pro-Quattara Muslim rebels are killing people and raping women. They are killing “everyone and anyone.” There are even rumors of cannibalism.
Tens of thousands of refugees are now trapped inside a Salesian mission in Duékoué following the mass slaughter by forces loyal to opposition leader Ouattara.
Mission Newswire reported:
Hundreds of bodies have been found after an Ivory Coast massacre that took place around a Salesian compound in the city of Duékoué.
Large mainstream news organizations such as BBC and CNN refer to the victims as “civilians” while smaller media and Catholic news outlets are reporting that “Catholics” or “Christians” were killed.
According to the statement from the Salesian Info Agency (ANS), “Almost single-handedly the Salesian house is providing refuge and help but the situation seems to be developing into a humanitarian crisis, following attacks (witnessed by the Salesian missionaries) by supporters of Ouattara, who for months has been in contention with Gbagbo for the Presidency of the country.”
According to the statement, refugees began to flee to the Salesian Missions compound for safety as the Carrefour district was looted and houses set on fire. Some witnesses report they were told to go to the compound, but by who is unclear at this time.
Exactly what happened also remains unclear. The Herald Scotland is reporting that more than 800 people were killed in a single day around a Salesian Missions compound in Duékoué (300 miles west of Abidjan towards the Liberian border), calling it a “massacre.” The newspaper reports that “the attackers seem to have largely been soldiers descended from Burkina Faso immigrant Muslim families loyal to Ouattara.”
The Herald Scotland also reported that “events at the Italian Salesian Roman Catholic mission in Duékoué increasingly echo a notorious church massacre during the Rwandan genocide in 1994.”
…Caritas reported what missionaries are saying – that the fighting trapped 30,000 people in a church compound in Duékoué. Many reportedly had gunshot wounds but could not reach hospitals on the other side of the front line.
International Organization for Migration (IOM) spokesman Jean-Philippe Chauzy told a news briefing in Geneva that “some 20,000 Ivorians and West African migrants (in Duékoué) had found refuge in an overcrowded Catholic mission with little or no access to shelter, food, water and health facilities.”
Most likely, what began as approximately 10,000 refugees has grown in the last few days, as indicated by an official report by the ANS on March 31: “The flow of refugees is extraordinary. The arrival of those from the Carrefour district together with those from other parts of the city means that the courtyard of the parish has quickly become totally occupied. The Salesians are no longer able to offer cover and during the night it rained for about 40 minutes. In addition, for three days the mission has been without electricity or running water.”
More information about Salesian Missions (and ways to help) is available at http://www.SalesianMissions.org.