ACCRA, Ghana (AP) - More than 13,000 people have fled their homes in southwestern Ivory Coast following attacks in which unidentified armed men killed at least 22 people, including seven U.N. peacekeepers, this month, a U.N. official said Thursday.
Residents around the town of Tai are "traumatized" and in "constant fear and panic," said Ute Kollies, the head of the U.N. humanitarian agency in Ivory Coast.
"We have recorded five attacks since the beginning of June, and given the rumors floating around, everyone is fearful of what might happen next," Kollies said. She said in some villages all of the homes have been destroyed.
U.N. peacekeepers and Ivorian soldiers are patrolling but Kollies said the densely forested Liberia border area needs to be secured further in order to protect the population and provide safe corridors for delivery of aid supplies.
All of the displaced people are living with host families, Kollies said. "There are in some cases 15 to 20 people living with a family of five," she said.
The Ivorian government has blamed the attacks on former militia groups or mercenaries loyal to Ivory Coast's former president Laurent Gbagbo whose refusal to cede power in a 2010 election sparked six months of violence. Gbagbo is now facing war crimes charges at The Hague.
Following Gbagbo's arrest, many of the mercenaries and militiamen who fought for him fled across the porous border into Liberia and its forests.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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