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Sunday, 8 December, 2002, 12:23 GMT
Ivory Coast mobilises youth
Civilians man a check-point near the western town of Man
Thousands have fled the latest fighting
The Government of Ivory Coast has called on young men to volunteer for the army in what it is calling a mobilisation against the almost three-month-long rebellion.

All men aged 20-26 have been asked to turn up at army headquarters on Tuesday.


Ivorians are showing the desire to go to the front and they should be satisfied

Bertin Kadet, Defence Minister
The government also promised an international inquiry into a mass grave in the western village of Monoko-Zohi which contained bodies of 120 men, mostly immigrants.

The announcement came amid reports that rebel factions had advanced eastwards from the Liberian border through cocoa-growing country.

Various French army sources were quoted as saying that rebels had taken the town of Blolequin, and were also threatening Guiglo, 120 kilometres (75 miles) from the Liberian border.

Mercenaries have been seen heading towards the front alongside the Ivory Coast army.

Call-up

"We are calling for the mobilisation because, with the increase in the number of fronts, we also need to increase the size of the security and defence forces," Ivory Coast Defence Minister Bertin Kadet told reporters.

"Ivorians are showing the desire to go to the front and they should be satisfied," he said.

"The people of Ivory Coast will apply all the resources at their disposal to struggle on the side of President Laurent Gbagbo and his government to put an end to these aggressors and liberate our country," Mr Kadet said.

The news conference came after the leader of Monoko-Zohi's Burkina Faso community, Ibrahima Ouedraogo, said that 120 men in his village had been killed by Ivory Coast soldiers.

French soldiers found the grave after fierce fighting between government soldiers and rebel groups.

The government denies any responsibility, saying the rebels are to blame - the village is in rebel-held territory.

"Our forces are not in the habit of burying their dead in common graves," Mr Kadet said.

Ivory Coast used to be West Africa's richest country but, 11 weeks after an army mutiny, some diplomats fear it could descend into the anarchy and massive blood-letting of civil wars in neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Massacre

The mass grave was found in territory held by the rebel Ivory Coast Patriotic Movement (MPCI) 70km (40 miles) north-west of the key cocoa-trading town of Daloa, which is now in loyalist hands.

Mr Ouedraogo said Ivorian army troops arrived in the village, travelling in six trucks with Ivorian military markings.

The victims had been killed by "men in uniform," who were "aided by some villagers".

Rebel fighter
The rebels are recruiting young Ivorians
He said soldiers had accused merchants of feeding the rebels before going from house to house rounding up and killing men, at times working from a list of names.

The bodies were found protruding from a mound which was 30 metres wide and two metres high, said a spokesman for the French forces in Ivory Coast, Lieutenant Colonel Ange-Antoine Leccia.

The BBC's Paul Welsh in Abidjan says there are now claims of two other mass graves of government forces killed during the 11 weeks of fighting.

One of them is said to be in the rebel headquarters in Bouake which used to be government military barracks.

The MPCI dominates the largely Muslim north of the country, while troops loyal to President Laurent Gbagbo retain control of the mainly Christian south.


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26 Nov 02 | Africa
25 Nov 02 | Africa
21 Nov 02 | Africa
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