Gunfire in 2 Ivorian Cities

The mutinous soldiers took control of Bouake,  Ivory Coast, on May 16. The mutinous soldiers took control of Bouake,  Ivory Coast, on May 16.

Heavy gunfire erupted on Monday in Ivory Coast’s two largest cities Abidjan and Bouake, witnesses said, as the military pressed an operation aimed at ending a four-day nationwide army mutiny over bonus payments.

Loyalist troops began advancing towards Bouake, the epicenter of the revolt, on Sunday and sporadic gunfire was heard overnight there as well as at military camps in Abidjan. Shooting in both cities intensified before dawn, Reuters reported.

“There was heavy shooting at the northern entrance to the city and in the city center. It’s calmed a bit but we’re still hearing gunfire,” said one Bouake resident. Other residents confirmed the shooting.

Heavy shooting was also heard in Daloa, a hub for the western cocoa growing regions. It was not immediately clear what impact the unrest might have on the flow of cocoa supplies.

The soldiers were revolting over delayed bonus payments, promised by the government after an earlier mutiny in January but not fully paid after a collapse in the price of cocoa, Ivory Coast’s main export, caused a revenue crunch.

A spokesman for the mutiny denied that any clashes had occurred in Bouake and said the renegade soldiers were firing in the air to dissuade any advance on the city.

But on Sunday, the group’s leaders rejected the army’s demand that they disarm and surrender.

“We can no longer turn back,” said their spokesman Sergeant Seydou Kone. “We don’t know what will happen to us, so we just want our money so we can start a new life. But we can’t give up now that we’ve reached this point.”


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