Ivory Coast: February 28, 2003

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Rebel MPIGO leader Felix Doh claimed that Ivorian army helicopters had attacked the town of Bin Houye. The attack near the southern limit of MPIGO-controlled territory killed about 20 civilians and wounded many others. Doh said that he had "given orders to take the offensive... once helicopters start bombarding, I think the ceasefire is over". The MPCI will not join the national unity government, unless it is given the top positions in the interior and defense ministries (which it has claimed it was promised under the earlier Marcoussis accord). Two platoons of the Liberians United for Reconciliation (LURD) rebel group attacked Toe Town (inside Liberia) on February 27. They were allegedly armed and supported by the Ivorian government, having just fought alongside Ivorian troops against their rebels.

Also at the end of February, Amnesty International reported that the MPCI had executed about 60 gendarmes and 50 of their children, when they took over the town of Bouake in October 2002. Some of the victims were executed in a military prison while others were killed at the site of a mass grave after being made to bury their comrades. These killings may have been a retaliation for gendarme atrocities allegedly committed a year prior.

The war in the Ivory Coast could take an uglier turn, if the catalyst behind the fighting turns from economic and political disenfranchisement to religious zealotry. While the sides have been divided between the traditionally Islamic north and the Christian south, the fighting hasn't become a crusade - yet. However, the country's most prominent Muslim cleric was claiming that his people have been targeted by state-backed "death squads", who have unleashed a reign of terror. The Ivory Coast plans to file a suit at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for a fresh probe into mass killings. - Adam Geibel

 

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