updated 4/3/2011 8:45:12 AM ET 2011-04-03T12:45:12

The United Nations mission in Ivory Coast began evacuating some 200 employees after frequent attacks on its headquarters by forces loyal to the country's strongman.

A U.N. employee said they were told Sunday that they were leaving. They were taken by helicopter from the U.N. base downtown to the airport. Another helicopter will take them to the northern city of Bouake.

The person asked not to be named because employees are not authorized to speak to the press.

The evacuation order is for all "essential employees." Nonessential employees were already evacuated several months ago. The U.N.'s military personnel is still in Ivory Coast.

The French military force in Ivory Coast secured the airport early Saturday.

Hundreds killed
The move came as the U.N. and the government it supports in Ivory Coast traded accusations over the killings of hundreds of civilians in a western town last week .

But a minister in the government of internationally recognized president Alassane Ouattara late Saturday accused U.N. peacekeepers of failing to protect civilians in Duekoue from vengeful fighters supporting the entrenched incumbent leader.

Story: UN staff killed in Afghan protest over Quran burning in US

The U.N. accused traditional hunters fighting in a force supporting Ouattara of "extra-judicial executions" of more than 330 people last week in Duekoue.

Guillaume Ngeta, joint chief for human rights of the U.N. mission, also on Saturday night blamed the killings of about 100 more civilians there on fighters loyal to Laurent Gbagbo, Ivory Coast's leader since 2000 who refuses to accept his defeat in November elections.

Video: Hundreds killed in Ivory Coast civil war (on this page)

Such allegations are a strong blow to the stature of the democratically elected Ouattara and could not come at a worse time, as fighters claiming loyalty to him prepared Sunday for a final push on Gbagbo's strongholds in Abidjan.

Aid organizations say atrocities that could qualify as war crimes and crimes against humanity are being committed by both sides as fighters for the two rivals prepare for a battle in Abidjan, the commercial capital and seat of power.

Roman Catholic charity Caritas said Saturday more than 1,000 people were killed over three days last week in one Duekoue neighborhood controlled by forces fighting to install Ouattara. Caritas spokesman Patrick Nicholson said they did not know who did the killing.

The International Federation of the Red Cross put the death toll at more than 800, and said it appeared to be "inter-communal violence."

Ouattara's government blamed retreating Gbagbo forces, and accused them of killing about 100 people there before they retreated.

Peacekeepers blamed
Justice Minister Jeannot Ahoussou-Kouadio rebuffed the U.N.'s allegations in a statement late Saturday, accusing the nearly 1,000 peacekeepers based in Duekoue of abandoning the town and leaving civilians at the mercy of vengeful Gbagbo fighters.

"The government notes that the (U.N. mission) retreated from the town of Duekoue before its liberation by the Republican Forces at the same time that the town was prey to looting and exactions of every type being committed by the militia and mercenaries of Mr. Laurent Gbagbo," the statement said.

The U.N. mission said most of its soldiers were deployed around a Catholic mission, protecting some 15,000 people who had sought refuge there.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Ouattara to discuss the issue late Saturday. Ouattara repeated his camp's denials, said he had launched an investigation and would welcome an international inquiry into the killings, according to a U.N. statement.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Rogers and the Obama Doctrine

  1. Transcript of: Rogers and the Obama Doctrine

    MR. GREGORY: But are we in a conflict that it has at its core a vital U.S. interest? I posed that question to the secretary of Defense on this program last week, this is what he said.

    MR. GREGORY: Is Libya in our vital interest as a country?

    SEC'Y ROBERT GATES: No, I don't think it's a vital interest for the United States . But we clearly have interests there. And it's a part of the region which is a vital interest for the United States .

    MR. GREGORY: And part of that interest, as the president outlined it in a speech that a lot of people thought was about Libya but about something of an Obama doctrine, was humanitarian. And yet you read the papers this morning, about 800 civilians killed in the Cote d'Ivoire . I mean, how do we form a policy around when we intervene and when we don't if this is not a, a, a war that's in our interest?

    REP. ROGERS: Well, I argue it is in our interests, and we ought to stand with the president on making this a, a positive outcome for the United States , again, the people of Libya . Here's -- the humanitarian component of it was real and it was something we should have done, stopping the slaughter of tens of thousands of people that we knew was going to happen. But here's somebody who is a state sponsor of terrorism; the bombing of the German discotheque killed American soldiers , planned thought Gadhafi 's regime, the Pan Am bombing. This is somebody who still has a chemical weapon stockpile and he has other weapon systems that keeps me up at night thinking about if these things were to, to happen to fall into the wrong hands.

    MR. GREGORY: Is Libya a terrorist threat?

    REP. ROGERS: Listen, I think if you have a stalemate with Moammar Gadhafi still in power, when you have this split country where he still possesses stockpiles of some pretty awful stuff, I think you have to worry that he is a terrorist threat.

    MR. GREGORY: That's significant...

    REP. ROGERS: I believe...

    MR. GREGORY: ...that this is what the endgame is about for the U.S. is preventing a terror strike by a, by a cornered Gadhafi .

    REP. ROGERS: Well, it's a whole host of things. I think that clearly has to be one of them. I mean, we know he has it. He used chemical weapons in his fight against Chad in 1987 , that's a fact.

    MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

    REP. ROGERS: We have seen -- I've been in Libya , I have seen his chemical stockpile. We know it's there, it exists. He has other weapon systems that concern us. But it can't be just that, it has to be all of the other factors.

    MR. GREGORY: Just a couple more points in our remaining time. I want to ask you about what I asked Senator Durbin about...

    REP. ROGERS: Yeah.

    MR. GREGORY: ...these protests that we're seeing throughout Afghanistan because of the Quran burning here in the United States ; a publicity stunt for sure, but also an act of extremism. It has real consequences.

    REP. ROGERS: Absolutely has consequences. And we've asked Americans in every tough conflict we've had in the history of this country to be thoughtful and mindful of each citizen's responsibility to make sure that you're doing your part for our soldiers to come home safely with an accomplished mission. When you do something like this, clearly the First Amendment has -- protects that individual from doing that. But when you jeopardize our soldiers and the folks who are -- and our civilians who are trying to put Afghanistan back together so we can come home, I would hope that you would stop with that bit of extremism and pull yourself back and look at the bigger, broader, more important picture as a unified and successful United States overseas.

    MR. GREGORY: Let me ask you about Iraq because the politics there, the sectarian division is started to tear at the seams a little bit. Of course, we have 47,000 troops there, they're due home by the end of the year. The Washington Post 's editorial just this morning poses a pretty

    provocative question, which is "Iraq's ticking clock: What will happen when the last U.S. troops depart?" If we leave, does Iran become the dominant player in Iraq ? And what does that mean for the U.S. ?

    REP. ROGERS: I don't think it becomes the dominant player in Iraq . It certainly has the potential and they have been a very bad actor in the entire region -- which I think is why you saw many Arab countries , both overtly and quietly, support the United States from keeping check on Iran 's ambitions in the region . That's not going to go away anytime soon. Their proxy state, Syria , clearly is acting on Iran 's behalf. Their activities in Bahrain , very concerning of what they're doing. We're going to have to watch it in Iraq and around the rest of that region . Again, why Libya 's important? Imagine now a change where you have Libyans, free democracy of some sort, at least of their choosing, that is less hostile to the United States and more inclusive of other Arab League partners. That's a positive outcome for the United States . When liberty is on the march, we ought to be with it in ways that we can, and responsibly, but we ought to be with it.

Timeline: Ivory Coast's turbulent history

Timeline: Learn how this former French colony has changed from the most prosperous nation in West Africa to another war-torn state.


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