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Shooting in Abidjan, Bouaké and other Ivory Coast’s cities

By on May 15, 2017

Mutinous soldiers have opened fire in four big cities in Ivory Coast, defying a government order to lay down their weapons.
Shots rang out near the presidential palace in the main city, Abidjan, the second city, Bouaké, and in cities vital to the cocoa industry.
Sporadic gunfire was heard overnight in Bouake as well as at military camps in the commercial capital Abidjan. Shooting in both cities intensified before dawn.
“There was heavy shooting at the northern entrance to the city and in the city centre. It’s calmed a bit but we’re still hearing gunfire,” said one Bouake resident. Other residents confirmed the shooting.
The troops who rebelled over delayed bonus payments controlled the second city Bouake, and heavy gunfire also hit San Pedro, a crucial port for exports of cocoa.
Pro-government forces have responded by closing roads in the city, while French troops have been deployed to guard French-owned transport firm Bolloré, a major investor in Ivory Coast.
Authorities will maintain a firm line with the mutiny, government spokesman Bruno Kone said. While there was no negotiations under way with the soldiers “discussions were continuing” and a military operation against them was ongoing.
On Sunday, armed forces’ chief of staff General Sékou Touré vowed to end the mutiny. One person was killed by a stray bullet after mutinous troops seized control of Bouaké.
Other areas hit by unrest include San Pedro, the biggest cocoa exporting city in the world, and Daloa, a major trading hub in Ivory Coast’s cocoa belt.
An Abidjan resident said soldiers came out of the largest military camp and erected barricades early on Monday, blocking traffic along one of the city’s eastern thoroughfares.
Several schools near the camp did not open and the Abidjan-based African Development Bank, which employs several thousand people – many of them international staff – told its employees to stay home.
Mutineers at the army headquarters in Abidjan’s financial district, near the presidential palace, have been shooting in the air, forcing schools and offices to shut, our reporter says.
A spokesman for the mutiny denied that any clashes occurred in Bouake and said the renegade soldiers were firing in the air to dissuade any advance on the city.
Ivory Coast is the world’s largest producer and London cocoa futures climbed to a five-week high due to the unrest as businesses in the sector closed. The mutineers, who helped the president take office in 2011, have been locked in a pay dispute with the government.
The mutineers have now changed their demand to severance pay, as they realise they cannot stay in the army after this.
The mutiny has raised fears of a resurgence of the violence seen during Ivory Coast’s 10-year civil war, which ended in 2011.
Pro-Ouattara forces from Bouaké swept into Abidjan at the time, helping Mr Ouattara take office after his predecessor Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept defeat in elections.
Many of the rebels were rewarded for their backing by being given jobs in the army.

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