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General News Sat, 13 Jan 2007

Three killed at Ghana-Ivory Coast Border

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Unidentified gunmen shot dead three members of Ivory Coast's security forces in an attack on two checkpoints near the border with Ghana early on Friday, military and local council sources said.

A local council worker in Aboisso, a town close to the border, told Reuters two military police officers and a customs officer were killed. Seven members of the security forces were wounded, four of them seriously, he said.

He said the attack appeared to be an act of banditry rather than politically motivated. The West African state has been divided into a rebel-held north and government south since a brief 2002-2003 civil war that began after an attempted coup.

"I confirm there were at least three killed in the attack this morning at the border with Ghana," said an official at the army headquarters in the main city, Abidjan.

"Our forces are leading (search) operations in the area even if the situation is now under control," he told Reuters.

The former French colony closed its land border with Ghana while investigations were carried out, officials said.

The attack occurred hours before foreign mediators met 150 km (90 miles) away in Abidjan to review progress on a foundering peace plan intended to reunite the world's top cocoa grower and pave the way for elections by the end of October.

"PROGRESS INSUFFICIENT"

The European Union's Commissioner for Development, Louis Michel, who attended the meeting, said the country's foes had to throw their weight behind peace efforts to stop the decay in the once prosperous former French colony from spreading.

"Progress is largely insufficient and the population's situation is deteriorating in the north and the south whether be it in terms of infrastructure, youth employment, teaching or social protection," he said.

"It's urgent to unblock the current impasse," he said, calling for progress on a voter identification scheme which he said was vital to enable fair elections to take place.

He said consensus Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny, entrusted with implementing the U.N.-backed peace plan, did not have the necessary room for manoeuvre to do so and called on the country's foes to stop "blocking each other."

A gendarme posted near where Friday's attack took place said two attackers had been arrested. He said the attacks were directed at the main border post with Ghana and a smaller checkpoint several kilometres inland.

In Ghana, western regional police commander Kofi Arthur told Reuters the trouble had not spread over the border.

"Everything happened in Ivorian territory. It didn't spill into Ghanaian territory," he said.

Source: Reuters