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Suspected Liberian gunmen attack Ivorian border town

Source: Reuters - Sun, 23 Feb 2014 15:55 GMT
Author: Reuters
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Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo attends a confirmation of charges hearing in his pre-trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague February 19, 2013. REUTERS/ Michael Kooren
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By Ange Aboa and Joe Bavier

ABIDJAN, Feb 23 (Reuters) - At least four Ivorian soldiers and several attackers were killed when suspected gunmen from Liberia raided a border town in the west of the country, authorities said on Sunday.

Gunmen from Liberia have carried out several assaults on towns near the border in recent years which the government and the United Nations have blamed on allies of former president Laurent Gbagbo.

Ivory Coast, the world's top cocoa producing nation, is recovering from a decade-long political crisis that culminated in 2011 in a brief civil war after Gbagbo refused to accept his election defeat to Alassane Ouattara.

Ivory Coast defence minister Paul Koffi Koffi told Reuters that the latest attack took place early on Sunday in the small town of Grabo, but the situation was now under control.

"They attacked a border post. We had to pull back. UN troops intervened to support us," Koffi Koffi said. "What is clear is that the situation is now under control."

He said several attackers were killed but did not have an exact death toll. Local authorities and residents reached by telephone said that at least four Ivory Coast soldiers were killed and three gunmen were arrested.

Yaya Coulibaly, a parliamentarian from Grabo, said he was told by the local army commander that four soldiers died.

"I'm in contact with the mayor who said that the situation was returning to normal but there was still some tension due to sporadic gunfire that is still being heard," Coulibaly said.

Grabo resident Ouattara Do, a director of a local cocoa cooperative, said the attack occurred around 4 a.m. local time after the assailants crossed over from Liberia.

"They attacked the local gendarme post and the army camp. They were pushed back with the help of the United Nations forces in Ivory Coast," Do said.

President Ouattara is recovering after an operation in a French hospital this month. Gbagbo is awaiting trial at the International Criminal Court for suspected crimes against humanity during the war, in which around 3,000 people died.

(Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall) ((bate.felix@thomsonreuters.com)(+221 33 864 5077)(Reuters Messaging: Reuters Messaging: 
bate.felix.reuters.com@reuters.net))

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