ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) — At least five soldiers were killed in three separate attacks targeting Ivory Coast's military early Sunday morning, two in the commercial capital of Abidjan and one in the east, military officials said.
Defense ministry spokesman Allah Kouakou Leon said a number of armed men wearing military uniforms stormed two police stations in Yopougon district in Abidjan on the country's southeast coast. Three soldiers died in the first attack and two in the second.
A third attack on a military camp in the eastern part of the country injured "many" soldiers, said Kakao Kouassi, communications chief for the army's chief of staff. The camp is located in the town of Abengourou, not far from the Ghana border.
Kouassi said that military officials believed the perpetrators of the last attack were loyalists supporting former President Laurent Gbagbo, and they had launched the attack from Ghana.
"We had information from our different intelligence offices that these attacks would take place," he said.
Kouassi declined to provide more details about the attack in the east. Kouakou said he suspected the attacks had been timed to coincide with Ivory Coast's Independence Day on Tuesday. These men wanted "to disrupt the upcoming anniversary," he said.
Both spokesmen said operations had been launched to search for those responsible, but no arrests had been made.
Ivory Coast officials announced in June that they had foiled a coup plot that originated in Ghana, accusing Gbagbo loyalists of attempting to foment destabilization. Gbagbo's Ivorian Popular Front political party has dismissed those charges as baseless.
Gbagbo's refusal to concede defeat to current President Alassane Ouattara after the November 2010 election spurred postelection violence that claimed some 3,000 lives. The former president is now facing crimes against humanity charges at The Hague.
Yopougon district was a flashpoint of violence during the postelection crisis. Attacks against West African immigrants and other perceived Ouattara supporters were carried out by pro-Gbagbo militias in the months before his arrest in April 2011. Human Rights Watch has referred to the district as "the final battleground" in the battle for Abidjan, and has accused pro-Ouattara fighters of carrying out collective punishment against perceived pro-Gbagbo supporters in the days and weeks following Gbagbo's arrest.
Since the end of the crisis, soldiers have assumed policing duties throughout much of the country. Meanwhile, a national effort to disarm ex-combatants has yet to get off the ground.
In a presentation to the U.N. Security Council in July, United Nations envoy Albert Koenders stressed that "repeated attacks on security perpetrated by armed elements" underscored the need to expedite the process of disarmament.