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Peacekeepers Struggle to Stem Abidjan Violence

The United Nations peacekeeping mission is having difficulty helping maintain security in Ivory Coast's southern commercial capital Abidjan, despite patrol from both government forces and peacekeepers. In the volatile suburb of Adjame, the patrols were unable to prevent clashes Thursday between police and local militias which killed at least two people.

Patrols of U.N. peacekeepers and government security forces were set up after rampant looting took place in Abidjan in November, but residents in some areas of the city say they have been ineffective in putting a stop to militia activity.

In the district of Adjame, people in the market showed VOA the body of a 21-year-old man lying in a pile of trash. The man had been killed in clashes between militias who support Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo and local police.

U.N mission spokesman Amadou Toure says that often the patrols arrive too late in an area to prevent disturbances, but that their presence is still a deterrent against perpetration of crimes.

"Well, you see, this thing usually happens when the patrols are not there of course," he said. "The bandits don't call you before perpetrating their things. So, usually we come after the things have been almost over. So the problem is we can't be everywhere at the same time. That's the problem. But I am sure the presence of these mixed patrols is a deterrent."

Crowds in the market place were angry that nothing had been done to stop militias who have taken over a local primary school in Adjame since last year to use as a training ground.

One man standing over the body of his friend shouted he was tired of incidents like these happening in his neighborhood.

Along with about 6,000 U.N. peacekeepers there are also around 4,000 French troops in divided Ivory Coast, monitoring a cease-fire between the army and rebel forces.

The U.N. mission is also trying to help prepare 2005 elections and disarm both rebels in the north and militias in the south.