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Violence erupts in Ivory Coast as ex-soldiers demand pay

Gunfire was heard at three military camps in Ivory Coast as former fighters asked for back pay and bonuses. The violence was similar to a 2014 strike where former rebels made similar demands.

Violence erupted in three different parts of Ivory Coast on Friday, according to local residents and army officers. Gunfire was heard at military installations in the country's second city of Bouake and the coastal town of Daloa in an apparent "mutiny" from young former soldiers demanding cash payments.

"It's a mutiny by former fighters integrated into the army who are demanding bonuses of 5 million CFA francs ($8,000) each, plus a house," one soldier told French news agency AFP, referencing militants who were allowed to join the regular army after a brief civil war in 2011. 

In Bouake, the seat of the 2011 rebellion, the ex-soldiers reportedly took over police stations and set up positions at the entrances to the city. Businesses remained closed and residents stayed inside their homes. Army officials in the capital Abidjan said they had sent reinforcements.

Hours later, reports followed that similar clashes had broken out in Daloa, and the northern city of Korhogo. These attacks were also concentrated around a military camps, forcing some security services to abandon their posts.

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Relative stability under Ouattara

The world's top cocoa grower had returned to relative stability under President Alassane Ouattara, whose victory over former leader Laurent Gbagbo prompted the 2011 uprising. Former rebels were allowed to join the army and Gbagbo was arrested and sent to the International Criminal Court in the Hague to face charges of crimes against humanity, including rape and murder.

While the nation has made solid economic progress under Ouattara, he has been criticized for eschewing a national reconciliation for the violence that saw 3,000 people killed and for allowing the country to grind to a halt during a 2014 strike by 9,000 former rebels turned regular soldiers. At that time, the ex-militants were also demanding more pay and promotions.

Ivory Coast Corporal Bamba Losseni said soldiers tried make their discontent known to authorities in other ways, but without success.

"The government does not respond to our different calls," he said, "while we need money to feed our families."

es/kms (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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