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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
13 January 2006

COTE D IVOIRE: Burkina Faso nationals arrested, shot dead after attack on barracks

ABIDJAN, 13 Jan 2006 (IRIN) - In a sign of continued ethnic tension in Cote d’Ivoire, a number of nationals from Burkina Faso were arrested and several shot dead following a mysterious attack against two military camps in Abidjan early this month, diplomats and other sources told IRIN on Friday.

A diplomat at the Burkina Faso embassy said paramilitary gendarmes had detained between 15 and 30 Burkinabe men after the 2 January attack and were holding them in a barracks in Abidjan, the economic capital.

The diplomat also said that the bodies of three Burkinabe men were found shot dead last Friday, three days after the attack against the military camps. The three have been identified.

The three Burkinabe men were killed after residents in a lagoon-side area of Abidjan requested the intervention of a special state security force known as CECOS on the suspicion that the men were “rebels,” the diplomat said.

Cote d’Ivoire has been split in two for more than three years into a rebel-held north and government-controlled south. The Burkina government, as well as the large contingent of Burkinabe migrant workers living in Cote d’Ivoire, are often accused of siding with the insurgents.

Referring to the arrests and shootings, a diplomat said: “This is not new, it's a well-established pattern that the Burkinabe are targeted after attacks."

“But the degree of xenophobia is rising - it doesn't take much anymore before one of our nationals is arrested."

He said two more corpses had been found in the last few days but not identified.

The Ivorian army was not available for comment.

Neither the government nor the army has yet offered a detailed explanation of the circumstances of the hours-long 2 January assault in which unidentified gunmen attacked two military camps on the eastern outskirts of Abidjan, leaving 10 people dead.

The Ivorian army denied it was a mutiny after people alleged to represent mutinous soldiers claimed responsibility for the attack in statements to the press.

The army subsequently said it had arrested 32 assailants and newspapers showed pictures of the detainees, most of them stripped naked and bloodied.

But according to the press, quoting residents, some of those arrested later turned out to be gardeners, carpenters or security guards who were near the camp on the day of the attack.

Several sources said that one alleged assailant killed on the day of the attack was a security guard wearing a T-shirt of the main opposition party, Rally of the Republicans (RDR).

"This man was innocent,” RDR spokesman Amadou Coulibaly told IRIN. “He was stopped at a checkpoint while on his way to work and summarily executed by the military.”

Migrant workers from neighbouring countries such as Burkina Faso and Mali comprise nearly 26 percent of Cote d’Ivoire’s population. Many immigrants complain of intimidation and racketeering by security forces, while rebels in the north say that foreigners and Ivorians born of immigrant parents are often treated as second-class citizens.

Several newspapers reported last week that the bodies of two unidentified Burkinabe men had been burned at a security checkpoint at the edge of the city. One of the dead men was shot by a soldier and the other beaten to death by a mob, the reports said.

"Unfortunately, there is total impunity in Cote d'Ivoire," said Amourlaye Toure of the Ivorian Movement for Human Rights. "It's increasingly difficult to gather evidence because more and more people refuse to testify. There is practically no follow-up anyway."



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