However, these residents reached by PANA could not confirm whether the fighting was between rebels and the National Armed Forces of Côte d'Ivoire (FANCI) or between French soldiers and rebels groups in the area.
"The intensive exchange of gunfire has caused so much terror among the population that villagers have been forced to desert their home to seek shelter in more secure zones," the residents said.
The Ivorian army alleged Wednesday that 100 people, including 20 rebels were killed when the outlaws attacked its positions in Toulepleu.
FANCI spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jules Yao Yao attributed the attack to rebels of the Ivorian Popular Movement of the Greater West (MPIGO) and the Justice and Peace Movement (MJP).
"Fighters from the MPIGO and MJP rebel groups attacked government troops today Wednesday 22 January 2003 at 14.00 GMT in Toulepleu. Four loyalist soldiers were killed and 15 others wounded while 25 of the rebels were reported dead," said the army spokesman.
The French army reported Tuesday that two of its soldiers got wounded during skirmishes with apparently uncontrolled rebel Elements near Duekoue, 450 km west of Abidjan.
MPIGO and MJP, two rebel movements, which emerged last November in the western Cote d'Ivoire, denied that their combatants were involved in these attacks.
The two rebel movements signed a cease-fire with the Ivorian government on 13 January in Lome, Togo.
Under the accord, the parties pledged to stop hostilities and to remain in their positions to await the outcome of the ongoing peace negotiations at Marcoussis outside Paris.
- Pan African News Agency
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