‘It’s a very serious act’

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Abidjan - Gunmen killed five soldiers in attacks on a police station and an army checkpoint in Ivory Coast's commercial capital, Abidjan, early on Sunday, police and government officials said.

The pre-dawn attacks occurred in the Yopougon neighbourhood, scene of some of the fiercest fighting during a brief post-election civil war last year, after a group of men were brought to the station following a police raid nearby.

Violence erupted in the world's biggest cocoa producer last year after then President Laurent Gbagbo refused to admit defeat to rival Alassane Ouattara in an election in late 2010.

Defence Minister Paul Koffi Koffi told reporters that Sunday's attack had been carried out by six assailants dressed in army fatigues.

“A taxi arrived and they opened fire, killing three of our men. Then they drove to a nearby checkpoint and killed two more... So the death toll is five,” he said.

Police said the attackers were armed with assault rifles and fled with the weapons of the murdered soldiers.

“We don't yet know the motive of this attack, but this is a very serious act,” said Kouame Lazou, a police superintendent.

Yopougon was one of the final pro-Gbagbo strongholds to fall to French and United Nations-backed forces after they took control of the city. Gbagbo, who was captured during the fighting, is currently awaiting trial before the International Criminal Court in The Hague on war crimes charges.

While Ouattara, now president, has managed to improve security in most of the country, Ivory Coast is still awash with weapons left over from the conflict and sporadic violence continues, particularly in the volatile western cocoa heartland.

The army has taken over many policing functions since last year's conflict, as many policemen fought on behalf of Gbagbo.

Seven United Nations peacekeepers were killed on June 8 in an ambush near the town of Tai, close to the border with Liberia, in what Ivorian authorities said was a cross-border raid by pro-Gbagbo militia and Liberian mercenaries.

The West African nation is recovering from a decade of political deadlock and civil unrest. - Reuters


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