UN, Ivory Coast honours slain UN troops

2012-06-14 21:29
United Nations soldiers carry the coffins of seven peacekeepers from Niger killed last week in southwestern Ivory Coast, during a memorial ceremony at United Nations headquarters in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. (Emanuel Ekra, AP)

United Nations soldiers carry the coffins of seven peacekeepers from Niger killed last week in southwestern Ivory Coast, during a memorial ceremony at United Nations headquarters in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. (Emanuel Ekra, AP) (Emanuel Ekra)

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Abidjan - The United Nations and Ivory Coast on Thursday jointly paid tribute to seven UN soldiers from Niger who were killed last week during an attack in the southwest, close to the border with Liberia.

Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, the head of UN peacekeeping operations in the west African country, Herve Ladsous, the head of the UN operation in Ivory Coast (ONUCI), Bert Koenders, and Niger's minister of higher education, Youba Diallo, took part in the memorial ceremony at the UN headquarters here.

"We will find out what happened and we intend to see to it that the culprits are apprehended," Ladsous said.

"The government will take all steps to put an end to these attacks... which we firmly condemn," Ouattara said.

Seven Niger troops, 10 civilians and at least one Ivorian soldier were killed in the 8 June attack while patrolling villages south of the small town of Tai, near the Liberian border, the worst attack on ONUCI since its 2004 deployment.

Ladsous said Tuesday that a patrol of 40 UN peacekeepers was attacked by a group of "at least" 80 men after receiving a report that one village was about to be attacked.

He added that the attackers may have come from Liberia, where President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said on Thursday she was working with Ouattara to deal with deadly border raids.

The zone has been prone to unrest for the past year, with bloody operations blamed in a recent report by Human Rights Watch on forces loyal to former president Laurent Gbagbo, whom the New York-based non-governmental organisation accused of recruiting child soldiers.

Fresh attacks on Monday and Tuesday in the same region killed five civilians and left four people wounded, including an Ivorian soldier, according to a toll compiled by the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The UN attributed these attacks to "unknown assailants".

After 10 years in power, Gbagbo refused to concede defeat to Ouattara in November 2010 presidential polls, sparking a crisis that lasted months and cost some 3 000 lives.

He was eventually captured by pro-Ouattara forces, with Western assistance, and is now locked up in The Hague where he faces charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court.

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