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41 Killed as Violence Flares in Ivory Coast

June 02, 2005|From Reuters

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast — Attackers shot or hacked to death at least 41 people and burned their houses in western Ivory Coast on Wednesday, sending hundreds fleeing and raising fears of revenge killings in a region where ethnic tensions run high.

The slayings on the outskirts of the cocoa town of Duekoue left 64 injured and underscored the fragility of an April peace deal between rebels and the government of this West African nation, where a civil war has waxed and waned since 2002.

Residents of Duekoue, 210 miles northwest of the commercial capital, Abidjan, said they feared more violence in an area that has been one of the war's bloodiest battlefields.

Army spokesman Lt. Col. Jules Yao Yao said 41 people were shot or knifed and 11 of the bodies were charred, but it was not clear whether victims had been burned alive.

The dead were members of the Guere tribe and lived in Guitrozon and Petit Duekoue, two villages on the edge of Duekoue. Ivorian authorities imposed a 7 p.m. curfew and sent paramilitary police reinforcements.

But residents remained scared.

"It's a terrible situation. I'm worried that there will be a civil war between civilians. I don't know what is being reserved for us after dark," said Mamadou Kone, a farmer in Duekoue.

"We heard that the locals have brought in reinforcements [of] militia fighters and Liberian fighters," he said.

The area around Duekoue is an ethnic tinderbox, and the war has pulled in fighters from neighboring Liberia, pro-government militias and rebels, complicating age-old rivalries often rooted in land disputes.

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