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Ivory Coast to Investigate Death Squad Killings


Ivory Coast's government says it is investigating reports of killings by pro-government death squads during the country's nearly five-month-old rebel war. The announcement comes as President Laurent Gbagbo faces mounting international pressure to start implementing a peace accord with rebels.

Ivory Coast Justice Minister Desire Tagro said on state television the government would investigate the reported attacks, which have largely targeted well-known supporters of the opposition.

In announcing the probes, the justice minister accused rebels of committing similar abuses in the areas they control.

The minister's statement was in response to newspaper reports in France that quoted a yet-to-be-released document prepared by the United Nations. According to the newspapers, the U.N. human rights agency says death squads made up of government supporters have been killing members of the opposition and others suspected of collaborating with rebels.

The government has denied any link to death squads.

International pressure continues to mount on President Gbagbo for his delay in implementing a power-sharing deal, reached in France last month with the rebels and the opposition.

The latest pressure is coming from West African nations. Ghana's president, John Kufuor, who heads the regional grouping, the Economic Community of West African States, urged Mr. Gbagbo on Wednesday to implement the accord. France and the United States have earlier called for its implementation.

The Ivorian leader has, at the same time, faced massive demonstrations by his supporters, who are calling on him to reject the agreement, saying it gives too much power to the rebels.

The rebels this week said they are growing impatient. Leaders of all three insurgent factions met Thursday in the western rebel-held city of Man to decide what action to take.

The possibility of renewed violence in Ivory Coast has prompted new calls for foreigners to evacuate the country. Western diplomats in Abidjan Thursday said the United Nations is ordering all of its non-essential staff to leave.

A small team of military advisers arrived aboard a U.S. Air Force transport plane in Abidjan late Wednesday to assist with a possible evacuation of Americans who are still in Ivory Coast. As of yet, U.S. Embassy officials said no evacuation had been ordered.

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