Special forces soldiers open fire in Ivory Coast town

AP News
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Posted: Feb 07, 2017 9:54 AM

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) — Angry elite soldiers fired their weapons for hours and blocked roads in the Ivory Coast town of Adiake on Tuesday, prompting the government to send a high-ranking delegation to calm the latest unrest in the armed forces over pay, officials and witnesses said.

The delegation included the West African nation's army chief and head of the special forces, according to an official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters.

Last month, soldiers in the country's second-largest city, Bouake, staged a mutiny over grievances including unpaid bonuses. The soldiers were mostly former rebels who controlled northern Ivory Coast from 2002 to 2011 and fought to bring President Alassane Ouattara to power during a postelection conflict in 2011 that claimed more than 3,000 lives.

After talks with Defense Minister Alain-Richard Donwahi, the mutineers said the government agreed to pay bonuses of nearly $20,000 to more than 8,000 soldiers, though the government has not confirmed that figure.

Since then, other soldiers and elements of the security forces have revolted.

Tuesday's unrest in Adiake was initiated by special forces who were demanding bonuses of their own, said Roland Kouakou, a resident who spoke to several of the soldiers.

"The town is in the hands of the soldiers, so we have all gone home now," Kouakou said.

Adiake is located nearly 100 kilometers (62 miles) east of Abidjan, Ivory Coast's commercial hub.

Monique Yao, a hospital worker, said the gunfire appeared to have stopped around 1 p.m.

"Everyone is afraid. We don't know what's happening," she said.