Ivory Coast probes rape claims against security forces

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Ivory Coast is probing claims its security forces raped five women during a crackdown on illegal gold mining in the country's northeast, a lawmaker and a source following the case said on Friday.

Noufe Sansan, a member of parliament, said the purported assaults occurred at the start of the week in Lagbo, a village in his constituency near the border with Burkina Faso.

"My phone wouldn't stop ringing on Monday, residents were complaining about the crackdown in the village, pillaging," he said.

"But worst of all, women were raped."

Of the five women who were reported to have been assaulted, "three agreed to file an official complaint," he said.

But "two ran away from the village in shame."

READ | Outcry in Ivory Coast over televised 'rape demonstration'

A source with knowledge of the case confirmed the reports and said the authorities had launched an "in-depth inquiry" into the matter.

The prosecutor in the nearby city of Bouna on Friday travelled to the village to investigate, several sources said.

Ivory Coast in June created a special task force to stamp out illegal gold mining in the country, made up of 460 gendarmes and 100 agents of the water and forest department.

So far they have destroyed 69 illegal sites and arrested 261 people, official figures show.

The unlawful mining operations are not just an environmental hazard, but also present a security risk in a country rocked by several jihadist attacks in recent years, mostly in northern areas.

A report by the International Crisis Group in 2019 found that several members of a group linked to Al-Qaeda had reportedly admitted to having received training in explosives in an informal gold mine near the northwestern border with Mali.


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