Police find arms on Liberia-Ivory Coast border

AP News
Posted: Jun 16, 2011 12:59 PM
Police find arms on Liberia-Ivory Coast border

Liberia's national police said Thursday it had unearthed a huge cache of arms in a region of the country straddling the border with neighboring Ivory Coast.

The area in Grand Gedeh County where the arms were found is one of the places where mercenaries and militias employed by Ivory Coast's deposed ruler fled after he was toppled on April 11.

A police statement said authorities had uncovered 1,439 AK-47 rounds, over 70 AK-47 magazines, 67 AK-47 rifles, as well as 50-Calibre machine guns, RPGs and anti-aircraft steel rockets. Some 92 refugees from Ivory Coast who crossed the border in April and May are being detained for questioning, police said.

Laurent Gbagbo, the former Ivorian leader, took his country to war in a final bid to stay in power after losing last year's presidential election to his longtime rival. He hung on for five bloody months, and in the final weeks his government openly gave out arms to youth groups that had voted for him. The distributions were a last-ditch effort to protect him from the army fighting to install the country's democratically elected leader.

The United Nations said in its commission of inquiry report last week that Gbagbo hired mercenaries from Liberia. The leader of the mercenaries, known by his nom de guerre "Bob Marley," has been in custody since last month.

Officials on both sides of the border have expressed concern that the fleeing gunmen slipped back into Liberia across the porous frontier along with their arms, and if they are not arrested they could use the guns to launch a counterinsurgency. It's long been suspected that the militiamen and mercenaries hid their arms, possibly by burying them in the thick forests that flanks both sides of the border.

The place where the arm cache was found is in the River-Gee area, a part of the border that is reachable from the Tai forest in Ivory Coast _ a massive uninhabited zone where the mercenaries are believed to have hidden after Gbagbo's fall. The border consists of a winding river, whose banks are not patrolled and which can easily be crossed in a dugout canoe.


Associated Press Writer Rukmini Callimachi contributed to this report from Dakar, Senegal.