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Sunday, 16 February, 2003, 00:42 GMT
Ivorian rebels deny mass grave blame
Rebel soldiers
Rebels in Man say they were not to blame
Rebel groups in the west of the Ivory Coast have alleged that mass graves found in the town of Man were the work of forces loyal to Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo.

Military commanders from two rebel groups said that the victims were civilians with names from the north and from neighbouring countries, who attacked the town two months ago.

A BBC correspondent who visited the graves says the positions of some of the bodies indicate summary execution.

Rebels took over the town in late November, when they attacked it and ousted government forces.

Charred corpses

The corpses are strewn across the local cemetery on the outskirts of the town, says the BBC's Joan Baxter, who has visited the town.

An Ivorian man threatened at gunpoint
Hundreds have been killed in Ivory Coast's civil war
Some of the bodies are wrapped in plastic sacks and others are charred.

Bodies have also been found in a nearby forest but are thought to be those of people who died during the recent fighting.

The military commander of the two rebel groups, the MJP (Movement for Peace and Justice) and MPIGO (Ivorian Patriotic Movement for the Greater West) say that pro-government forces are to blame.

About 12,000 people are reported to have been killed in Man since Ivory Coast's civil war started five months ago.

'Foreign names'

Locals say the people were targeted for having foreign names.

Man is said to be extremely tense and many businesses are shut.

Rebel groups are threatening to march on Ivory Coast's commercial capital Abidjan unless President Gbagbo appoints its nominees to the cabinet.

They maintain that a peace deal signed in Paris in January promised them key ministries but President Gbagbo - who also signed the accord - insists he must have the final say on government appointments.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Joan Baxter on Focus on Africa
"You can tell these were summary executions"

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See also:

08 Dec 02 | Africa
15 Feb 03 | Africa
07 Feb 03 | Africa
05 Feb 03 | Africa
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