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Rebel gunbattles in northern Ivory Coast leave 22 dead

Gunbattles between rival rebel factions in northern Ivory Coast left 22 people dead, officials said, stepping up a power struggle that has compounded 20 months of tensions in the divided west African state. Rebel military commander Colonel Soumaila Bakayoko said rebels loyal to coup-plotter Ibrahim Coulibaly, known as IB, were pressed into service by President Laurent Gbagbo and his Guinean counterpart Lansana Conte to wage the overnight attacks in the northern towns of Korhogo and Bouake. “We have, once again, repelled a vain attempt to destroy us by extremists from all sides of the peace process,” Bakayoko said in a statement. “And we have taken steps to secure our populations and our communities against being targeted.” Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer, has been mired in unrest since a failed September 2002 coup plunged the country into a divisive war that has left the north in rebel hands ever since. Full Story

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