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Heavy gunfire erupts in Ivory Coast's two main cities

19 Mai 2017

Abidjan = Gunfire and continued threats by mutinous soldiers in several cities in Ivory Coast has led banks, schools and businesses to close amid fears of fighting.

Ivory Coast is the world's largest producer and London cocoa futures climbed to a five-week high due to the unrest as businesses in the sector closed.

Ouattara, 75, secured a second term in a landslide victory in 2015, but has struggled to heal deep divisions that have made the country's own military, cobbled together from rival rebel and loyalist factions, its greatest security threat.

Soldiers received their first instalment at the end of the month, but are pushing for the balance of $11,600 which the state has been unable to pay following a collapse in the price of cocoa, the nation's main export.

The army chief of staff said on Sunday a military operation was in progress to combat the mutinous soldiers, calling on them to disarm. "The talks have resulted in an arrangement to end the crisis". But two spokesmen from the mutineers' camp told Reuters they had rejected the government's offer.

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.

A spokesman for the mutiny, Sergeant Seydou Kone, said: "We met with the soldiers in Tiebissou and they asked us to lay down our arms and surrender".

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But a surprise televised announcement Thursday night by a spokesman for the mutineers apologizing and saying they dropped demands for bonus payments has prompted more protests.

He said that a military operation was underway to restore order in the cities that were in the hands of the soldiers.

Shots have been heard in the east of the commercial capital, Abidjan, and frequent gunfire reported by residents of Ivory Coast's second largest city, Bouake.

The main border crossing with neighbor Burkina Faso north of the town of Ouangolodougou was closed by the revolt, residents and the head of a transportation association said.

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

Heavy shooting was also heard in Daloa, a hub for the western cocoa growing regions, on Monday.

Mutineers fired bullets and set up roadblocks in both cities, while businesses closed their doors and residents mostly stayed inside their homes. According to reports, government troops are advancing towards Bouaké in an attempt to quell the uprising.

Heavy gunfire erupts in Ivory Coast's two main cities