Seven UN peacekeepers killed in Cote d’Ivoire
The UN Security Council on Friday condemned “in the strongest terms” the deadly attacks on UN peacekeepers in Cote d’Ivoire, in which seven peacekeepers were killed while trying to protect civilians in danger near the border with neighboring Liberia.
“The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the attack by armed elements on a United Nations Operation in Cote d’Ivoire (UNOCI) patrol in the Southwest of Cote d’Ivoire on 8 June 2012, in which seven peacekeepers were killed,” said a press statement issued by the 15-nation council.
It was not immediately clear who attacked the UN troops in a place near the towns of Para and Tai, just a few kilometers from the border with Liberia.
The UN peacekeeping forces came under ambush after a recent increase in its presence in the area to beef up its efforts to protect civilians. The seven killed were all from Niger.
“The secretary-general also remains seriously concerned about the continued instability in the border areas between Cote d’Ivoire and Liberia since the Ivorian post-elections crisis, which has resulted in the death of a number of individuals in that region,” the statement added.
—UNSC slams attacks on peackeepers in Cote d’Ivoire
“There’s panic in the villages, many are fleeing into the forest, others are heading for Liberia,” a resident of Para village told AFP by phone.
The mayor of nearby Tai village, Desire Gnonkonte, confirmed that residents were fleeing.
The country’s deputy defence minister Paul Koffi Koffi said the attackers had crossed over from neighbouring Liberia, adding that two Ivorian soldiers and at least one civilian may also have been killed.
Cote d’Ivoire’s west is by far the most unstable part of the country and has been plagued by deadly attacks since a political and military crisis that started at the end of 2010 and left some 3,000 people dead throughout the country.
In a report published Wednesday, Human Rights Watch said at least 40 people had been killed since July 2011 in raids the group blamed on fighters loyal to ex-president Laurent Gbagbo.
Gbagbo was captured on April 11, 2011 and has been in custody in The Hague since November on allegations of crimes against humanity.
Koffi said that some 50 attackers had crossed the river that marks the border with Liberia before descending on the villages of Saho, Para and Nigre.
“We think these are the same groups who have been responsible for all the attacks in the area in recent months,” he said.
The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Cote d’Ivoire, Bert Koenders, condemned the unprecedented ambush against the UNOCI troops.
The seven “were part of a patrol that was on a mission south of the locality of Tai, in a zone where UNOCI recently strengthened its presence due to threats of attacks against the civilian population”, he said in a statement.
—Seven UN peacekeepers killed in Cote d’Ivoire: UN
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