MONROVIA (Reuters) - Heavy fighting erupted in western Ivory Coast between rebels and forces loyal to incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo, sources along the Liberian border told Reuters on Sunday.
Gunfire could be heard by residents in Liberian border villages and wounded fighters were crossing over seeking medical attention, the sources said.
“We in Tapeta, here, did not sleep last night from the sounds of the guns (in Ivory Coast),” a Red Cross official said, asking not to be named. “It sounded like the war was moving into this area.”
The fighting started on Saturday in a town in western Ivory Coast reputed to be a pro-Gbagbo stronghold, sources said.
“It is true that many young people from the border towns were recruited by both forces in Ivory Coast,” a resident in the Liberian town of Dialah said.
“We were told that Gbagbo’s men were dislodged yesterday, but today, there is still resistance.”
Ivory Coast has been in turmoil since a disputed November election that threatens to rekindle the West African state’s 2002-03 civil war, and has already hindered exports from the world’s top cocoa grower.
Gbagbo claims he won the poll despite U.N.-certified results showing his rival Alassane Ouattara with an 8-point margin of victory, triggering a standoff that has already killed hundreds.
Tens of thousands of people have fled Ivory Coast to Liberia already, and analysts are worried Ivory Coast’s instability could spill over into its fragile neighbours.