ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) — Suspected gunmen who crossed over from neighboring Liberia attacked two army checkpoints in western Ivory Coast on Monday, wounding one soldier in the fifth attack on the Ivorian military this month, officials said.
Ivorian Deputy Defense Minister Paul Koffi Koffi said an untold number of gunmen stormed checkpoints in the villages of Pekambly and Pahoubly, not far from the town of Toulepleu.
"We cannot say if they are Liberian or Ivorian militias, but what is clear is that they are coming from Liberian territory," he said.
Officials have blamed the recent violence on rogue soldiers and loyalists of former President Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to concede defeat in the November 2010 election against current President Alassane Ouattara, sparking violence that claimed at least 3,000 lives.
Western Ivory Coast has been targeted in a series of cross-border raids over the past year allegedly carried out by Gbagbo loyalists hiding in Liberia, including one in June that killed seven U.N. peacekeepers.
At least 11 soldiers were killed last week in pre-dawn raids on military positions in Abidjan. Attacks were also reported in the eastern town of Abengourou, not far from the border with Ghana, and in Agboville, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Abidjan. Gbagbo's Ivorian Popular Front political party has condemned the attacks.
Human Rights Watch issued a report in June saying the attackers had recruited Liberian children to fight and had vowed to carry out more attacks.
Ann Encontre, country representative for the U.N. refugee agency, said witnesses to Monday's attack reported seeing "hundreds of attackers" at Pekambly, and that Ivorian soldiers in the area lacked the resources to pursue them effectively. She said the soldiers later received support from the Ivorian military and the country's U.N. mission.
Koffi said Monday evening that the situation was under control, thanking the U.N. and the Liberian government, which he said had provided refuge to Ivorian soldiers fleeing the attack. He said one wounded soldier was being treated at the hospital in Toulepleu, and that the assailants may also have sustained casualties.
Encontre noted that the attack had halted plans to repatriate 230 Liberians who fled to Ivory Coast during their country's civil war. The Liberians had been due to return to their home country through the checkpoint in Pekambly on Tuesday, she said.