Humanitarian organizations are expecting a surge in refugees following the killing Friday (June 8) of seven U.N. peacekeepers near Para village in Ivory Coast, near Liberia.
At least 4,000 civilians are estimated to arrive in the Ivorian town of Tai, U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs spokesman Remi Dourlot told CNN. Several refugees reportedly arrived over the weekend, while some 35 families fled to U.N. refugee camps in Liberia.
The exodus comes as a result of recent violence in the country, where a number of civilians were also reportedly killed. It is not yet clear who perpetrated the attack, but according to Ivorian defense minister Paul Koffi Koffi, they are militias and mercenaries “from the other side of the border,” as quoted by Reuters.
A Human Rights Watch assessment of violence in the country seems to support this claim. The organization said at least 40 civilians were killed in cross-border raids since July, The Associated Press reports. These men, according to the human rights group, could be former President Laurent Gbagbo’s supporters who fled to Liberia when he was arrested.
The recent violence has U.N. General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser concerned over the continued instability in the country. Ivory Coast almost fell into civil war when Gbagbo refused to concede to current President Alasanne Ouattara following the 2010 presidential elections.
Ivorian, Liberian and U.N. forces are set to launch an operation June 15 to find the perpetrators, Koffi Koffi told AP. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, meanwhile, hailed the bravery of the more than 40 peacekeepers who remain in the village to protect civilians.
The killed peacekeepers were from Niger and were serving with the U.N. Operation in Ivory Coast (UNOCI), whose mission is set to expire July 31.
UNOCHA has already deployed members to help coordinate relief efforts in Ivory Coast, Dourlot said. Aid workers from the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Danish Refugee Council and local relief groups, meanwhile, are on site to assist incoming refugees, UNOCHA spokeswoman Anouk Desgroseilliers told Agence France Presse.
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