|VOICE OF AMERICA|
SLUG: 2-322892 Ivory Coast (L)
TITLE=IVORY COAST/ FIGHTING (L-Only)
HEADLINE: Gumen Attack Ivory Coast Rebels
INTRO: Rebels in Ivory Coast say allied government forces have violated a cease-fire in the west of the country, and that all attempts at peace mediation are over. Gabi Menezes reports from VOA's West Africa bureau in Abidjan.
TEXT: Rebels say their positions in the west were attacked by forces supporting President Laurent Gbagbo.
A spokesman for the rebel forces, Sidike Konate, tells VOA the incursion took place early Monday near the town of Logouale, through the so-called zone of confidence, patrolled by United Nations and French peacekeepers.
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"It is war. We have been attacked. Logouale is our position, and the military of Gbagbo Laurent tried to go behind the United Nations soldiers, and attacked our positions in Logouale."
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There are reports about 70 fighters were detained.
Mr. Konate said, even if the attacks were not carried out by army soldiers, they were still carried out by people who he says are supported and armed by the government.
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"These young people cannot come from the south with strategic weapons and attack our positions, and then say they are not controlled by the government. Who armed these people? Who gives them weapons? I think this is a big (lie)."
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Aides to President Gbagbo said they could not immediately comment. A military spokesman said there was no fighting involving soldiers.
Tensions have been mounting in recent days in western, rebel-held areas, with leaders of the southwestern militia group called the Liberation Front for the Great West, calling on civilians to resist rebel occupation.
The leader of this militia, Denis Maho Glohefi, told VOA these incursions were carried out by an ethnic Yacouba faction of the group known as the Young Patriots, who support Mr. Gbagbo.
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He said that they were poor and needed food, and blamed their situation on the rebels. He said his forces were not involved.
There are currently six-thousand United Nations troops and more than four-thousand French troops trying to monitor a cease-fire. This is the first violation since government planes bombed rebel areas in November.
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Ivory Coast has been split into a rebel-held north and government-controlled south since 2002.
The African Union nominated South African President Thabo Mbeki to mediate a stable peace in the country following the hostilities in November, but rebels have said they are not impressed by his efforts. Warring sides have been unable to implement a peace deal signed in France in early 2003. (SIGNED)
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