Ivory Coast attack: Death toll hits 23

2011-09-19 08:45

Abidjan - The death toll from an attack by "Liberian mercenaries" in south-western Ivory Coast has risen to 23, the Ivorian defence ministry said on Sunday.

Women and children were among the 13 Ivorian civilian victims of the attack in the village of Ziriglo, near the Tai National Park early on Friday, the ministry said in a statement.

An Ivorian soldier was also killed, along with six victims from Burkina Faso and three from Nigeria, according to the official toll.

A military source on Saturday had spoken of 14 killed in the attack.

Blaming mercenaries from neighbouring Liberia, the defence ministry said the UN operation in Ivory Coast (ONUCI) was providing air and ground help in the search for the attackers.

The Tai region is a tourist destination renowned for its lush tropical forests.

Ivory Coast, a former west African powerhouse, is slowly emerging from a bloody conflict following disputed presidential elections late last year that claimed at least 3 000 lives.

The west of the country remains the most unstable.

Seizures of large quantities of arms and munitions from Liberia in the border regions of Ivory Coast have deepened concerns for stability in the West African nation, which will hold a general election next month.

President Alassane Ouattara has vowed to unite the country after a deadly five-month political standoff but ousted former president Laurent Gbagbo's supporters have said they will boycott the vote unless their leader is released from house arrest.