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Ivory Coast Attacks Leave at Least 12 Dead - 2003-12-12


The government in Ivory Coast is investigating a series of attacks on police checkpoints in the commercial capital, Abidjan, that left at least a dozen people dead, including one soldier. The renewed violence comes as rebels who control half the country are about to begin a disarmament process.

The Ivorian defense minister, Rene Amani, says unidentified gunmen attacked key police checkpoints early Friday in the Abobo neighborhood and near the headquarters of state television.

He says a number of attackers were killed or captured.

Speaking on state television Friday, Mr. Amani promised a full investigation into what he called a very serious matter.

But Mr. Amani said the Ivorian government will do everything it can to make sure the Ivorian peace process is not impeded, despite the renewed violence.

Security was heavy around the state television on Friday, where just several hours earlier, dead bodies covered in blood lay on the ground. One witness who was shot in the hand says a dozen men wearing black shirts and traveling in white vans fired on the police checkpoint near state television, before being gunned down.

Surveying the scene of the attack in the early morning hours of Friday, the Ivorian army chief of staff, Mathias Doue, called on soldiers to be vigilant for other attacks.

He said Ivory Coast remains under constant pressure but that those trying to derail the peace process will fail.

Politicians close to President Laurent Gbagbo accused rebels of being behind the attack, while opposition leaders said they believed the attackers were militias close to Mr. Gbagbo.

The attacks come one day before rebels are due to begin a disarmament process, following renewed promises by President Gbagbo that he will work to implement a power-sharing peace deal signed in January.

Ivory Coast has been cut in two since September 2002, when northern-based rebels launched their insurgency. Part of the peace deal is due to give voting and land ownership rights to many northerners who are now considered immigrants.

Rebels pulled out of a power-sharing government in September, accusing Mr. Gbagbo of blocking implementation of the peace deal.

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