Gunfire was heard early on Monday in Ivory Coast’s two main cities, according to witnesses, as the military pressed an operation aimed at ending a mutiny by soldiers demanding bonus payments.
Ivory Coast mutiny: Soldiers continue standoff over pay
In the commercial capital of Abidjan, shots were heard from two military camps in the east of the city, a nearby resident told the Reuters news agency. Frequent gunshots were also heard in the country’s second city of Bouake.
“I’ve been hearing the sound of Kalashnikovs and a heavier weapon,” one Abidjan resident told Reuters.
“That began at around 5am (05:00 GMT) and it’s lasted an hour. It’s intense,” added the resident who lives near the US embassy and the presidential residence.
“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. A second resident confirmed the shooting.
The mutineers often fire in the air to express their anger over the non-payment of bonuses.
Six people were wounded by gunfire on Sunday, and one of three protesters shot and wounded on Saturday in Bouake died of his wounds.
The unrest came as authorities launched a military operation “to re-establish order” after soldiers who staged a mutiny on Friday over bonus payments refused the army’s demand to disarm.
The mutineers, most of them former rebel fighters who fought to bring President Alassane Ouattara to power, sealed off Ivory Coast’s second-largest city, Bouake, and used gunfire to break up protests against the revolt.
Their revolt began in Bouake when a spokesman for the group dropped demands for extra pay promised by the government during negotiations to end a previous mutiny in January.
Under a deal negotiated with the government in January, the soldiers were to be paid bonuses of 12 million CFA francs (18,000 euros) each, with an initial payment of five million francs that month.
The 8,400 mutineers received were due to get the rest of the sum this month.
But the government has struggled to make the payment, with a budget hit by the collapse in the price of cocoa, Ivory Coast’s main export.
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