Lawlessness 'reigns in Ivory Coast'
Abidjan - An international rights group says banditry, violence and rape are widespread in Ivory Coast's western provinces even as the country prepares for historic elections.
Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Friday that armed gangs routinely attack people at roadblocks and in their homes. Masked bandits carry assault rifles and machetes and target villagers headed to market. Girls as young as seven months old and women as old as 80 have been sexually assaulted.
Officials in Ivory Coast could not be immediately reached for comment.
The West African country is scheduled to hold presidential elections at the end of the month. The vote comes after eight years of civil war and a political crisis and will be closely monitored by the world community.