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Violence in Western Ivory Coast Kills More than 50, Residents Flee

At least 10 people have been reported killed overnight in suspected reprisals in Ivory Coast's volatile west. Local residents are fleeing the area following two days of violence, and some government ministers accuse the country's United Nations peacekeeping mission of not doing enough to ensure security.

Thousands of people have taken to main roads, fleeing the western Ivory Coast city of Duekoue and its surrounding villages after another night of violence.

Duekoue resident Oumar Toure says he has never seen such a large exodus since the country's civil war began in late 2002. Other residents, he says, have remained in the city, but have taken refuge in a Catholic mission or in secure neighborhoods.

Witnesses say up to 10 people were killed in overnight attacks on northerners living in Duekoue. Bodies were found early Thursday. The victims had been stabbed or beaten to death with sticks or metal bars.

The suspected revenge killings come a day after more than 45 people, identified as being from the Guere ethnic group, were killed in two villages just outside Duekoue. The area has long been the scene of ethnic clashes. Around 30 people were killed there in fighting in May. And many local Gueres accuse northerners for being behind this week's attacks against them.

Some government ministers are blaming Ivory Coast's United Nations mission for not doing enough to stop the violence, which has taken place just south of the U.N.-patrolled buffer zone that separates Ivory Coast's rebel held north and government controlled south.

Environment minister Angele Gnonsoa, who comes from Duekoue, says Ivory Coast's west has long been the scene of unrest. When two or three people die everyday, she says, no one says anything. It takes 50 or more dead, she says, for the international community to take notice.

U.N. peacekeepers and aid workers have been bringing dozens of wounded people to the medical centers in Duekoue. The head of the U.N. peacekeepers, General Abdoulaye Fall, says the peacekeepers are doing everything they can to boost security, including sending reinforcements.

"We are authorized to use force, up to and including deadly force, to protect civilians under threat of imminent violence within our area of deployment and within our capabilities. If these kinds of ethnic clashes are happening, usually when it's in our area of deployment, we have to act," he said.

The area is under control of the Ivorian army, and General Fall says U.N. peacekeepers cannot ensure security in every small village.