Seven UN peacekeepers have been killed in an ambush in southwestern Ivory Coast

It is the first attack of its kind in the country, a UN spokesman told Agence France Presse (AFP).

UN officials said that the attack took place near the border with Liberia and that the dead soldiers were from Niger.

UN peacekeepers were deployed to Ivory Coast in 2004 to help end the country's civil war and have stayed through the country's recent political crisis.

The peacekeepers were patrolling in an area between the villages of Tai and Para after hearing rumours of an imminent attack on communities in the region, UN officials said.

"We are moving in reinforcements as soon as we have daylight," Kieran Dwyer, the spokesman for the UN peacekeeping department, told the Associated Press.

The area has seen a number of cross-border attacks over recent months, blamed on Liberian mercenaries and Ivorian militia fighters who fled Ivory Coast following the arrest of the former president Laurent Gbagbo last year, the BBC's John James in Abidjan reports.

Just last week. UN reinforcements were sent to the region following rumours of a planned attack, our correspondent adds.

Earlier this week, campaign group Human Rights Watch published a report saying militants loyal to Mr Gbagbo based in Liberia had killed at least 40 people in cross-border raids since last July.

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