Ivory Coast Troops Clash With Liberian Gunmen at Border

Soldiers from Ivory Coast clashed with Liberian gunmen yesterday near a border town where seven United Nations peacekeepers were killed earlier this month.

No casualties were reported in the latest violence, which began when the Ivorian army fired two mortars at the gunmen, said Losseni Fofana, the army commander in charge of security in the country’s west. The two sides then exchanged gunfire, he said.

The clash occurred near the town of Para, where the UN soldiers died on June 8 in the deadliest attack on foreign troops in the West African country in eight years. The armed group, which has a base on the Liberian side of the Cavally River that serves as a border between the two countries, is comprised of Ivorian militia members and Liberian mercenaries, Fofana said.

Ivory Coast, the world’s biggest cocoa producer, is seeking to recover from violence that left at least 3,000 dead following ex-leader Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to cede power after a November 2010 election. Gbagbo was arrested in April 2011 and is facing charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Alassane Ouattara was inaugurated in May 2011.

The clashes are extending a decade of violence that started with a military uprising in 2002 in which the country was divided into a government-controlled south and rebel-held north.

Anti-UN Campaign

The attack on the UN peacekeepers was similar to other raids by Liberian mercenaries and Ivorian militiamen who supported Gbagbo in last year’s conflict, according to Human Rights Watch, the New York-based advocacy group. Gbagbo instigated an anti-UN campaign last year in a failed bid to force the departure of the peacekeeping mission.

Ivory Coast accounts for about 34 percent of the world’s total cocoa production, the biggest export in its $23 billion economy. Cocoa for July delivery fell 0.8 percent to 1,563 pounds ($2,445) a metric ton on the NYSE Liffe exchange by 1:33 p.m. in London.

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