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Ivory Coast Blames Liberian Gunmen for UN Peacekeepers' Death

United Nations soldiers from Niger conduct a patrol through the streets of Abidjan, Ivory Coast (2011 file photo).
A senior Ivorian defense official says the gunmen that killed seven U.N. peacekeepers on Friday in western Ivory Coast came from neighboring Liberia.

Paul Koffi Koffi says the raid highlighted the need for Ivorian troops to carry out cross-border operations in Liberia to improve security.

The peacekeepers, all from Niger, died in an ambush near the Liberian border. Eight civilians were also killed in the attack.

The soldiers were on patrol south of the town of Tai, in an area where the U.N. has strengthened its presence due to threats of attacks against civilians.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack and said he is worried about some 40 peacekeepers remaining in Ivory Coast's remote region. He urged the Ivorian government to identify the gunmen and hold them accountable.

A few days ago, Human Rights Watch warned that fighters loyal to Ivory Coast's former president Laurent Gbagbo are staging attacks on Ivory Coast from Liberia.

The rights group said that about 40 people have been killed in cross-border raids in the past year.

Gbagbo was captured in April of last year and has been in custody in The Hague since November on charges of crimes against humanity that he allegedly committed while trying to prevent election winner, current Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, from taking power.

Ivory Coast is recovering from last year's violence following a contested 2010 election.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.