An attack on an army checkpoint and two police stations has led to the closure of the border between Ghana and the Ivory Coast. Ivory Coast Defense Minister Paul Koffi Koffi said that the attacks against the country’s security forces left eight people dead, including five of the attacking gunmen.
Ivory Coast authorities believe the gunmen to be supporters of former president Laurent Gbagdo, many of whom have gone into exile in Ghana. The 450-mile border shared between the countries has been closed by land, sea and air until further notice.
“Around 03:00 [Friday] the position of the [government forces] at the Noe border post was attacked by armed elements from Ghana,” Koffi announced in a statement. “After a shoot-out five assailants were killed and five arrested. The other assailants withdrew to Ghanaian territory.”
In initial reports three were reported dead from gunfire after attacks on a pair of police stations south of Abidjan, the country’s commercial capital. The fighting eventually spilled over into the border town of Noe. President John Dramani Mahama of Ghana visited Abidjan earlier this month, announcing that he would not allow Ghana to become a base for Ivory Coast’s enemies.
Ivory Coast authorities believe that Gbagdo’s supporters staged the attacks as part of a continued effort to destabilize the state. Post-election clashes claimed the lives of 3,000 people last year. Gbagdo refused to step down from his position after current president Alassane Ouattara was elected in 2010. After being ousted by a combination of UN, French and former rebel forces, Gbagdo is being held in The Hague, where he will be tried in the International Criminal Court.
Last month, three of Gbagdo’s highest ranking supporters were arrested in a matter of days, inciting political tension. Ivory Coast’s soldiers have been involved in several border clashes in the last few weeks.