Gunman attack Ivory Coast village, three attackers killed

ABIDJAN Sat Mar 23, 2013 2:48pm EDT

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Soldiers in Ivory Coast killed three gunmen, part of a group that raided a village near the border with Liberia early on Saturday, senior army officials said.

The attack on the village of Petit Guiglo was the third raid in the past 10 days on a village in the top cocoa producer's volatile west, a region fractured by ethnic divisions and long-standing conflicts over land ownership.

"This morning there was an attack in Petit Guiglo at around 4 o'clock. We were forced to launch a counter-attack," said a senior Ivorian army officer, who asked not to be named.

"Three of the attackers were killed, and two of our soldiers were wounded," he said, adding that clean-up operations in the areas were continuing.

Ivory Coast is emerging from a decade of political crisis that ended with a brief civil war in 2011.

Sporadic armed violence has continued, blamed generally on President Alassane Ouattara's exiled foes.

But an attack on a nearby village on March 13 in which seven people died was carried out by men dressed as "dozos", a group of mystical hunters who fought on Ouattara's behalf during the 2011 conflict, according to an army report of the incident.

The military officials said it remained unclear who was behind Saturday's violence.

The western cocoa heartland saw some of the worst bloodshed during the 2011 conflict, which erupted after Laurent Gbagbo, then president, rejected Ouattara's election victory in late 2010. Both sides carried out mass killings in the area.

(Reporting By Joe Bavier; Editing by Stephen Powell)

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