- A clash in a border village last week claimed 23 lives
- Ivorian troops are being aided by U.N. forces in securing the border with Liberia
- Tensions are growing as elections approach in both nations
The U.N. mission in Ivory Coast is helping the Ivorian government beef up security along the border with Liberia after a deadly attack last week from alleged ''Liberian mercenaries," an Ivorian official said.
"We have sent more troops there and are getting support from the U.N. troops that were already on the ground," Deputy Minister of Defense Paul Koffi Koffi said on state TV Sunday.
Twenty-three people were killed Friday in the western village of Ziriglo, along the border with Liberia, authorities said. Among the victims were at least 13 civilians and an Ivorian soldier.
On Saturday, state TV announced the death toll as 15. It is not clear whether the additional dead were all in the ranks of attackers.
Restoring order and stability in the west of Ivory Coast has been a scorching challenge to the new Ivorian government. The region, which has long been plagued by ethnic violence, remains the most unstable in the aftermath of a post-electoral crisis that claimed the lives of more than 3,000 people.
It was the location of massive human rights violations, mostly blamed by international organizations on northern militias backing presidential candidate Allasane Ouattara. The militias eventually toppled incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo, who had refused to cede power to Ouattara, the winner of a U.N.-certified election in November 2010.
Gbagbo was arrested by Ouattara's forces on April 11.
Liberian mercenaries who were allegedly hired by Gbagbo's supporters also are accused by of killings in the region.
Civilians fled the region by the thousands to find refuge in neighboring Liberia during the crisis. Some 170,000 refugees are still in Liberia, afraid to return home, according to aid agencies.
The recent attack occurred a week after a regional summit dedicated to security along the Ivorian-Liberian border. Ouattara, his Liberian counterpart, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and other West Africa leaders called on September 10 for the United Nations to intensify its monitoring of the 700-kilometer (435-mile) border between the two countries.
With general elections coming in Liberia next month, and parliamentary elections slated for December in Ivory Coast, there are concerns that tensions could grow, placing the whole region's stability at risk.