Police in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County have confirmed the arrest of 76 suspected Ivoirian mercenaries including Liberians, allegedly training to invade the Ivory Coast.
The suspects are believed to be Ivorian refugees in Liberia, but the police are yet to provide details whether they were caught in possession of arms. The suspects are due in court today. The men have denied being mercenaries saying they have been in the forest area mining gold.
However, quoting police charged sheet, sources informed the New Dawn-Liberia that the suspects were allegedly arrested recently during an early morning raid carried out by officers of the police Emergency Response Unit in one of the gold mining camps near Zwedru.
One of the suspects is reported to have sustained injury during the raid, and has been admitted at a government hospital in Zwedru. The suspects are reportedly being detained at the Zwedru correction center.
Hundreds of thousands of Ivorian refugees crossed into Liberia during that country’s bloody civil upheaval in 2010, following the annulment of results of the elections between ex-President Laurent Gbagbo and Allassane Ouattara.
Mr. Gbagbo was subsequently ousted from power and is being tried in The Hague for war crimes, while Ouattara, who was internationally declared winner of the November polls, is the current President.
The Ivorian crisis left the country deeply divided along tribal lines with serious wounds yet to be healed. Liberian border securities confiscated huge cache of arms last year at separate locations in River Gee and Grand Gedeh counties, respectively.
The Joint Security of Liberia comprised of officers of the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization, the Liberia National Police and other state security institutions supported by the United Nations Mission in Liberia, have kept a close eye on the borders with Ivory Coast.
Authorities in Monrovia are yet to comment officially on the latest incident, which could create panic on both sides. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her Ivorian counterpart Allassane Ouattara have reassured each other that they will not allow their borders to be used for subversive activities against the other.
Mr. Ouattara joined several West African leaders recently in Monrovia to grace the inaugural ceremonies of President Sirleaf for a second term in office.