Witnesses say sustained gunfire has been heard in Abidjan and Bouake as the military tries to end a four-day army mutiny over pay. Falling cocoa prices have had a detrimental effect on the country's finances.
Heavy shooting erupted on Monday in the Ivory Coast cities of Abidjan and Bouake, which are both in the grip of a nationwide mutiny by ex-rebel soldiers over bonus payments, witnesses say.
The reported gunfire, which intensified before dawn, came as loyalist troops began an advance on the second-largest city of Bouake, the epicenter of the revolt. Shooting was also heard at two military camps in the economic capital of Abidjan, where residents spoke of mutinying soldiers erecting barricades and blocking traffic along a main thoroughfare in the city's east.
The mutineers often fire in the air when angered that their demands are not met, though it was not immediately known whether that was the case early Monday.
On Sunday, the military announced an operation to end the mutiny.
One person died in Bouake Sunday from bullet wounds sustained in clashes between the mutineers and people protesting against the revolt.
After a first mutiny in January, the government promised to pay out 12 million CFA francs (18,000 euros/$20,000) to each soldier, with an initial payment of 5 million francs that month.
Rebel sources say the government has failed to pay the remainder.
Ivory Coast has an army of around 22,000 troops whom the government is struggling to pay amid falling prices for cocoa, one of the country's main exports.
Last year, the government revealed a plan to modernize the military that included the departure of several thousand men, especially ex-rebels, who will not be replaced.
The revolting soldiers were integrated into the army after a decadelong civil war ended in 2011. Many of the ex-rebel fighters had fought to bring President Alassane Ouattara to power.
tj/rt (Reuters, AFP)