Deadly clashes break out in Ivory Coast

2012-07-20 17:36

Abidjan - Four people were killed overnight in the west Ivory Coast town of Duekoue, triggering reprisals by youths who blamed a group of displaced people and went to burn their nearby camp, residents said Friday.

"An attack carried out on Thursday night in the Kokoma district of Duekoue, inhabited mostly by ethnic Malinke, claimed four lives," a resident told AFP. Western security sources and a local journalist confirmed the toll.

These sources said that youths from Kokoma had afterwards attacked a displaced persons' camp populated mainly by Guere people on the outskirts of the town.

Several sources said that the youths were accompanied by soldiers and traditional hunters who serve as auxiliaries to the army.

"They went to the camp, first of all destroyed the entrance, then burned down the camp," a security source said.

"There was panic here, people were fleeing the camp," a resident said.

"Since this morning there has been shooting in the town and at the moment we can still hear shooting from the displaced persons' camp," said an employee of the UN refugee agency, asking not to be named.

Some displaced people sought shelter inside Duekoue's Roman Catholic mission.

A soldier said that the troops were looking for the "unidentified" people who had allegedly killed the four people in Duekoue. "We still haven't laid hands on them," he said.

Long prone to serious ethnic tensions based on land disputes, the west of Ivory Coast remains the most unstable part of the country more than a year after the end of the post-electoral crisis of December 2010 to April 2011, which claimed 3 000 lives, including hundreds in the Duekoue region.

That crisis was sparked by the refusal of ex-president Laurent Gbagbo to admit defeat to current leader Alassane Ouattara in elections.

Several villages came under attack in early June south of Duekoue, close to the border with Liberia. More than 20 people were killed, including seven UN peacekeeping troops from Niger serving with the UN mission in Ivory Coast.