World Bulletin / News Desk
At least four people were killed in an exchange of fire between soldiers and unidentified gunmen at an army checkpoint in southern Ivory Coast, the West African nation's defence minister said on Sunday.
The world's top cocoa grower is struggling to cope with a spate of armed raids on police and military installations that began earlier this month, raising fears of renewed instability following a conflict last year that killed 3,000 people.
Defence Minister Paul Koffi Koffi said a gunbattle erupted on Saturday in the village of Irobo, around 80 km (50 miles) west of the commercial capital Abidjan, when soldiers at a roadblock tried to stop a vehicle carrying a group of armed men.
"There was a high-speed chase. When our men tried to stop the attackers at a checkpoint, they opened fire on our soldiers," Koffi Koffi told Reuters.
Though the attack occurred at around 11 a.m. (1100 GMT) on Saturday, the minister said it was still unclear how many people had been killed and wounded in the exchange of fire.
"The initial toll was four dead. Some civilians were hit. The death toll has risen among the assailants, but we do not want to give a figure yet. We are currently gathering and verifying the information," he said.
Two suspected gunmen were captured, Koffi Koffi said.
The army has been carrying out clean-up operations in the area after battles in the nearby town of Dabou last week in which gunmen attacked army and gendarme bases and freed more than 100 prisoners from the local jail.
Before Saturday's violence, at least 15 people had been killed in a series of attacks over the last three weeks.Last Mod: 26 Ağustos 2012, 16:31