THE UNITED NATIONS has condemned “in the strongest possible terms” Friday night’s attacks in the Ivory Coast, during which seven UN peacekeepers and a number of civilians were killed.
The peacekeepers all came from Niger and were serving with the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNCOI). At the time of the ambush they were on patrol in the Para village region, near the border town of Tai in the south-west.
The UN confirmed that they were attacked by a group of “unidentified armed elements”.
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called on the Government to “do its utmost” to hold the perpetrators accountable for the “deadly attack”.
“My heart goes out to the families at this difficult time, and I express my deepest sympathy to the Government of Niger for this tragedy,” he added.
According to Al Jazeera, the Government has vowed to start a manhunt to capture those responsible for the killings. The news agency also reports that up to eight civilians perished during the attacks, which also sparked a mass exodus.
The UNCOI had recently strengthened its presence in the area due to threats of attacks against the civilian population. It is understood that other peacekeepers stayed with the villagers in Para despite the dangers posed to them last night.
The UN remains “seriously concerned” about the continued instability in the border areas between the Ivory Coast and Liberia since the post-elections crisis, which has resulted in a number of deaths.
UNOCI was established in 2004 by the UN Security Council to facilitate the peace process in the country, which was split by civil war in 2002 into a rebel-held north and Government-controlled south.
The mission, whose current mandate runs until 31 July, is currently tasked with assisting the country tackle the many challenges it faces in the wake of the violence that followed presidential elections in late 2010 and the electoral crisis that finally ended in April 2011 with the capture of former president Laurent Gbagbo. These include the restoration of law and order, national reconciliation, the holding of legislative elections, and economic recovery. Gbagbo is currently being held in the Hague on suspicion of crimes against humanity.
In a report published this week, Human Rights Watch said that at least 40 people, many of whom are women and children, have been killed since July 2011. Armed militants hostile to the Ivorian government have also recruited Liberian children and carried out deadly cross-border raids on Ivorian villages in recent months, the group said.