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Last Updated: Sunday, 1 May, 2005, 21:39 GMT 22:39 UK
Eight die in Ivory Coast clashes
FLGO fighters
There are many pro-President Gbagbo militias in the region
At least eight people have been killed and 30 injured in three days of clashes between two ethnic groups in Ivory Coast, the Red Cross reports.

Hundreds fled after their homes were attacked and looted in Duekoue, 400km (250 miles) west of Abidjan.

The fighting erupted after the Guere people refused to heed a strike called by the Dioula in protest at security problems in the town.

A civil war that began in 2002 has exacerbated long-running disputes.

Ethnic tension

Guere workers were reported to have returned to work despite a call from ethnic Dioula traders for the strike.

The attacks started on Friday, as rival groups brandishing clubs and machetes clashed.

People escaped from their homes and took refuge in local churches and mosques.

"[We] have evacuated about 30 wounded to the local hospital in addition to eight people killed," International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) spokesman Kim Gordon-Bates told news agency Reuters.

"The situation there at the moment is still tense and we're keeping a close watch on it."

UN peacekeepers who have been in the region to monitor a ceasefire between the loyalist army and the northern rebels said on Sunday the situation was calm.

The BBC's James Copnall in Abidjan says ethnic tension is high and disputes over land are common in the region famous for its coffee and cocoa.


A ceasefire signed in May 2003 left the country split between the loyalist south and the rebel-held north - the buffer zone between the two sides is just to the north of Duekoue.

Our correspondent says there are numerous militias in the area which support President Laurent Gbagbo and mostly Guere.

The Dioulas are Muslim and have family ties to the rebel-held north and are often seen as foreigners.

Both sides have recently started pulling back their heavy weapons from the frontlines as part of a peace deal signed in South Africa last month.

The rebels have also rejoined a power-sharing government and both sides have pledged to study proposals to start full disarmament in May.

Our correspondent says the weekend of violence has reminded everyone that for all the positive signs generated by the recent Pretoria accord, Ivory Coast is still far from calm.


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