5 Ghanaians held in Ivory Coast
Accra - Security forces loyal to Ivory Coast's would-be president Alassane Quattara arrested on Friday five Ghanaians suspected to be mercenaries for his rival Laurent Gbagbo, a Ghanaian minister said.
The arrests were in Ivory Coast's northern city of Bouake, Ghana's deputy information minister James Agyenim-Boateng told AFP, rejecting suggestions the men were mercenaries.
"We are worried by the situation in Ivory Coast because the five Ghanaians who have been arrested are artisans, masons, working in Ivory Coast, and not mercenaries," he said.
"Ghana has 500 troops in Ivory Coast protecting the hotel in which Alassane Quattara is living," he said, referring to the Golf Hotel in Abidjan protected by UN forces.
"Why then should the alleged Ghanaian mercenaries go there to do anything negative?" he asked, adding concerns about developments in the country.
Agyenim-Boateng said the families of the five had been informed of their arrest while Accra's mission in Abidjan had been charged to ensure their release.
Tensions are mounting in Ivory Coast with the international community backing Ouattara as winner of November 28 elections. Gbagbo has refused to step down.
Ouattara holds sway in Ivory Coast's north while Gbagbo draws much of his support from the south.