Gunmen attack west Ivory Coast village; six deaths reported

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast — Unidentified gunmen attacked a village in western Ivory Coast and set it ablaze early Saturday, prolonging a spate of recent violence that has displaced thousands, a U.N. official said.

Sylvie van den Wildenberg, spokeswoman for the country’s U.N. peacekeeping mission, said the attack resulted in the deaths of two civilians, three assailants and one member of the dozos, a group of traditional hunters that has assumed an unofficial security role in the country’s western region.

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The attack targeted the village of Petit Guiglo, 15 miles southwest of Blolequin.

The attack is the third in less than two weeks in Ivory Coast’s western region, where some of the worst atrocities were committed during the country’s 2010-11 post-election conflict.

Ivory Coast was rocked by five months of violence after then-President Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down despite losing the November 2010 presidential runoff to the current president, Alassane Ouattara.

Gbagbo, who governed Ivory Coast for a decade, is awaiting trial on allegations of crimes against humanity at the Hague.

After the conflict, many pro-Gbagbo fighters, along with Liberian mercenaries who supported Gbagbo, fled to neighboring Liberia, where they are believed to have launched cross-border attacks as far back as July 2011. An attack in June 2012 killed seven U.N. peacekeepers and 10 civilians.

Armed men on March 13 attacked the town of Zilebly, about six miles from the border with Liberia, killing two soldiers and five civilians, according to the United nations. Local officials said they believed the perpetrators had crossed the border from Liberia.

Early Thursday morning, attackers struck the village of Toubly, nine miles southwest of Toulepleu, an important town along the Ivory Coast-Liberia border.

Joseph Malanda, commander of the U.N. police force in the west of the country, said that there were no casualties in that attack but that three assailants were arrested and weapons, including AK-47 rifles, were recovered.

No group has claimed responsibility for the recent attacks, but this week several media operations supporting the former president, Gbagbo, received a letter purportedly from the leader of an armed group that calls itself the “Ivorian Movement for the Return of the We to the West.”

The We people include the Guere ethnic group, whose members largely supported Gbagbo in the 2010 election and were victims in the worst atrocities carried out by pro-Ouattara fighters in the west during the post-election conflict.

— Associated Press

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