Gunmen attack Ivory Coast border post

2012-08-14 11:21

Abidjan - A border post at Ivory Coast's restive western frontier with Liberia was attacked Monday by gunmen loyal to ousted strongman Laurent Gbagbo, injuring one Ivorian soldier, the defence minister said.

Paul Koffi Koffi said on state television RTI that seven others had fled to Liberia after a counter-offensive and had been now handed over to the Ivorian embassy there.

The raid followed another in the frontier region in June that killed seven UN peacekeepers among about 20 people in all.

That attack was also blamed on forces loyal to Gbagbo, whose refusal to step down after a 2010 election defeat sparked a four-month conflict which claimed some 3 000 lives.

The defence minister said the border post at Pekambly near the town of Toulepleu had been "retaken" after the assault by men "coming from Liberia", with Liberian troops and a UN helicopter providing backup.

"Five soldiers, a policeman and a civilian" fled across the border and were handed over to Ivorian authorities there, he added.

"We heard heavy gun sounds this morning right at the border," said Alfred Tarleh who lives in a village across a small river on the Liberian side of the border, in view of the town which was attacked.

"It was so heavy that we got afraid and started packing our things to leave the border," Tarleh told AFP, saying the shooting had later stopped.

Deadly cross-border raids

Another resident of the Liberian village, Robert Cole, said: "From where I am, I can see them in T-shirt and jeans. There are at least ten of them at the border, the rest of them are said to be advancing on Toulepleu."

In Toe's Town, Liberia, a few kilometres from the border, residents reported long convoys of Liberian soldiers and immigration officers heading towards the border.

"The soldiers, police and the immigration officers passed with arms in the long convoy," said resident Anita Dweh.

The June attacks were believed to have been carried out by followers of Gbagbo, who was captured in April last year and has been in custody in The Hague since November on allegations of crimes against humanity.

Diehard Gbagbo supporters are believed to have fled to Liberia after his fall. Liberian mercenaries were also widely implicated in the Ivory Coast conflict.

Human Rights Watch in June reported that these fighters were carrying out deadly cross-border raids in Ivory Coast.

An army base in the north of Ivory Coast's commercial capital Abidjan was attacked on 6 August, killing six soldiers and one of the assailants, in the latest of a string of raids targeting the military.