New mass graves found in Ivory Coast

Updated 07 November 2012
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New mass graves found in Ivory Coast

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast: Up to 10 new mass graves have been discovered near the site of a July attack on a camp for displaced people, officials said Tuesday, amid allegations that initial casualty totals were downplayed to mask killings carried out by the national army.
Rights groups claim summary executions were carried out by the Republican Forces of Ivory Coast, known by its French acronym of FRCI. Last month, officials found six bodies in a well close to the former campsite in the western town of Duekoue.
Government, army and UN officials toured 10 more graves in the same area on Saturday, said Paul Mondouho, vice-mayor of Duekoue. He said the graves had first been identified by civilians, and that officials did not know the number of bodies they contained because they had not yet been properly exhumed.
“People were suspecting the presence of bodies in these graves because of the smell coming out of them and because of the shoes we saw nearby,” Mondouho said.
Prosecutor Noel Dje Enrike Yahau, who is based in the commercial capital of Abidjan, confirmed that multiple new graves had been discovered but could not provide details. UN officials and the local prosecutor in charge of investigating the suspected killings could not be reached Tuesday.
UN spokeswoman Sylvie van den Wildenberg confirmed that UN forces helped Ivorian authorities secure a perimeter around 10 wells “similar to the one in which six bodies were found,” and that “some of those wells are suspected mass graves.”
She stressed that Ivorian authorities were leading the investigation but that the UN was able to provide assistance.
Army spokesmen could not be reached Tuesday. The Justice Ministry has previously vowed to investigate the discovery of the initial grave.
On the morning of July 20, a mob descended on the UN-guarded Nahibly camp, which housed 4,500 people displaced by violence in Ivory Coast, burning most of the camp to the ground. Officials said at the time that six people were killed.
The attack was prompted by the shooting deaths of four men and one woman on the night of July 19, according to local officials and residents. In response a mob of some 300 people overran the camp on the morning of July 20 after the perpetrators of the shootings reportedly fled there.
The victims in the July 19 attack lived in a district dominated by the Malinke ethnic group, which largely supported President Alassane Ouattara in the disputed November 2010 election. The camp primarily housed members of the Guere ethnic group, which largely supported former President Laurent Gbagbo.
Gbagbo’s refusal to cede office despite losing the election to Ouattara sparked months of violence that claimed at least 3,000 lives.
Albert Koenders, the top UN envoy to Ivory Coast, said one week after the attack that UN security forces had been inside and outside the camp at the time but that no Ivorian security forces were present. He said the UN forces decided not to fire at a large group of people that were attacking the camp in order to avoid “a massacre.”
Several witnesses have said soldiers and traditional hunters, known as dozos, participated in the attack on the camp. Both military and dozo leaders have denied the claims, saying they had tried to protect the camp.
In a statement released Friday, the International Federation for Human Rights, known by its French acronym of FIDH, said it had information — including the preliminary results of autopsies — confirming that the six bodies found in October were men who had been summarily executed by the army.
“The disappearance of dozens of displaced persons after the attack, as well as confirmation of cases of summary and extra-judicial executions, suggest a much higher victim rate than the official figures report,” said the organization, which counts Ivorian civil society groups among its members.
Duekoue was one of the hardest-hit towns during the post-election violence. The UN has established that at least 505 people were killed in and around the town, including during a notorious March 2011 massacre that claimed hundreds of lives and was allegedly carried out by fighters loyal to Ouattara.
Duekoue residents belonging to ethnic groups that supported Gbagbo have long complained about abuses carried out by the FRCI, with some pointing to the direct involvement of the local commander, Kone Daouda. FIDH said in its statement that Daouda had been transferred following the discovery of the grave in October, and called for him to be interrogated over the matter.
The group also said two FRCI members were being “actively sought” after failing to return to their barracks on Oct. 16, noting that they are believed to have fled to neighboring Burkina Faso.


Japan halts missile drills after Trump-Kim summit

Updated 21 June 2018
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Japan halts missile drills after Trump-Kim summit

TOKYO: Japan has halted evacuation drills simulating a North Korean missile attack in the wake of historic talks between Washington and Pyongyang, local media reported Thursday.
Government officials did not immediately confirm the reports, but authorities in one town said they were suspending a drill planned for next week on orders from Tokyo.
The decision comes after US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un met last week in Singapore, with the pair signing a joint document calling for denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
Yaita in Tochigi prefecture north of Tokyo had been planning an evacuation drill for next week involving some 800 residents including 350 school children, city official Yutaka Yanagida said.
But the city suddenly canceled all preparations late Wednesday after being instructed by the government that “drills should be postponed for the time being following a change in the environment after the US-North Korea summit,” he said.
Contacted by AFP, a Cabinet Office official said the government would announce its policy on evacuation drills on Friday, declining to comment further.
Last year, Pyongyang fired two missiles over Japan and it has splashed others into the sea near the country, sparking a mix of panic and outrage.
Earlier this year, hundreds of Tokyo residents scrambled for cover in the Japanese capital’s first evacuation drill for a military attack by Pyongyang.
North Korea has singled out Japan, a key US ally in the region, for verbal attacks, threatening to “sink” the country into the sea and to turn it into “ashes.”
But the regional mood has turned toward diplomacy since the Winter Olympics hosted by South Korea, which set off a series of diplomatic moves culminating in the Trump-Kim meet.