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Unidentified Assailants Attack Ivory Coast Police Stations


Overnight attacks on police stations have left at least five dead in Ivory Coast. The military in the country's government-controlled south has been placed on high alert, amid fears violence could escalate.

A young woman wails outside the local headquarters of the gendarmes in Anyama, a suburb of Ivory Coast's commercial capital, Abidjan, says her father was among five officers killed in the attacks late Saturday. Inside, the steps leading into the station are covered in blood. Police say the officers' throats were cut.

About a kilometer away, another attack forced five police officers to flee. One of the officers on duty explains.

"They [the attackers] arrived in two small buses and a taxi, and stopped in front of the station," he says. "They all jumped out," he says, "and there was one at the entrance with a Kalashinikov rifle."

The attackers, who have yet to be identified, sacked the offices and carried away arms and ammunition.

In what many see as a related attack, gunmen stormed another police station in the city of Agboville, about 70 kilometers north of Abidjan.

As many as 2,000 prisoners reportedly escaped from the prison there during the fighting. An Ivorian army spokesman said, by early afternoon, parts of the city were still being attacked.

Armored vehicles patrolled the streets of Abidjan early Sunday, and army officials said a deployment of security forces had been dispatched to secure Agboville.

A group of angry soldiers, stationed outside the police station in Anyama, say they blame the rebels, known as the New Forces, who have controlled the northern half of Ivory Coast since a civil war broke out nearly three years ago.

New Forces representatives have denied involvement in the attacks.

The incident puts in serious danger a tenuous peace process mediated by South Africa, and intended to clear the way for presidential elections in October.

In a statement read on government television, a spokesman of army chief of staff Brigadier General Phillippe Mangou said the military had informed the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast of, what he called, a violation of the peace accord.

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