Heavy weapons fire was heard Friday near Ivory Coast’s largest military camp in the city of Bouake, where at least two police stations were attacked, an AFP journalist said.
“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,” a soldier who asked to remain anonymous told AFP.
The AFP journalist in Bouake, the country’s second largest city, said “the soldiers attacked at least two police stations and erected barricades in the town centre. “There is no more traffic. The firing of Kalashnikovs can be heard near the 3rd battalion” camp.
The troops “have taken up positions at different sections of the city. They can be seen parading around in police vehicles.” A police source said the soldiers arrived at one police station at about 3am and took away their Kalashnikovs.
The police headquarters in the city was also attacked, the source said. All businesses and schools were closed in Bouake, which was the capital of a rebellion that split Ivory Coast in two after it tried to push former president Laurent Ggagbo from power in a 2002 coup attempt.
That partitioning of the country sparked a decade of crises. Several people in the northern city reached by telephone from the capital Abidjan said the shooting began between 2 and 3 am.
“I was really scared. I thought that they were going to come into my station to take petrol for free as they do regularly”, Koffi Raphael, who runs a petrol station not far from the barracks, told AFP.
In November 2014, a strike by former rebels who had joined the army, ground the country to a standstill after spreading to Abidjan from Bouake.
The nearly 9,000 strikers, who joined the army between 2009 and 2011, were demanding full payment of back pay and promotions. Gbagbo was captured in April 2011 by forces loyal to his rival Alassane Ouattara and delivered to the International Criminal Court. Ouattara was sworn in as president a month later.