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Gunfire hits Abidjan, Bouake and San Pedro amid mutiny

19 May 2017, 07:36 | Taylor George

Mutinous soldiers cut off Ivory Coast's second city

Mutinous soldiers shoot, wound three in Ivory Coast second city

Mutinous soldiers in Ivory Coast on Monday blocked the main border crossing with neighbouring Burkina Faso, residents and the head of a national transportation association said, as a four-day army mutiny worsened.

"I've been hearing the sound of Kalashnikovs and a heavier weapon".

Loyalist troops began advancing towards Bouake, the epicentre of the revolt, on Sunday and sporadic gunfire was heard overnight there as well as at military camps in Abidjan.

Last month, the government revised its 2017 budget as it faces lower income from cocoa, its main export crop, limiting its ability to pay soldiers.

Authorities will maintain a firm line with the mutiny, government spokesman Bruno Kone said.

The latest standoff was sparked by Ouattara's announcement on Thursday that the government had reached a compromise with troops that organized a mutiny over unpaid bonuses in January.

"The population rose up, but the mutineers quickly dispersed the march with shots", said Bouake resident Simon Guede.

Reuters quoted a Bouake resident as saying: "There was heavy shooting at the northern entrance to the city and in the city centre".

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Under a deal negotiated with the government in January, struck after the ex-rebel soldiers' first mutiny, they were to be paid bonuses of 12-million CFA francs (€18,000) each, with an initial payment of 5-million francs that month.

The unrest shows the enduring vulnerability of the world's biggest cocoa producer since it emerged from a decade-long conflict that ended in 2011 when Alassane Ouattara, 75, came to power.

In Bouake, soldiers fired on a group of demobilised former rebels seriously wounding one of them, according to their spokesman and a local lawmaker. But society remains deeply divided and a wave of mutinies earlier this year exposed the lack of unity in a military assembled from former rebel and loyalist combatants.

"We don't know if the delegates who were sent to Abidjan (for the ceremony) betrayed us, if they are corrupt or if they were taken hostage over there", said Sergeant Yacouba Soro, one of those protesting in Bouake.

One person was killed Sunday when the mutinous soldiers used guns to disperse residents protesting their violence in Bouake.

A spokesman for the group said on Thursday they had dropped demands for the remaining money, an announcement rejected by numerous soldiers who sparked the current revolt.

They were integrated into the army and represent some 8,400 soldiers of the more than 20,000 members of Ivory Coast's army.



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