Ivory Coast’s two largest cities, Abidjan and Bouake, have been marred by unrest as a nationwide army mutiny continues.
Witnesses said on Monday that the military had launched an operation aimed at ending the four-day army mutiny, which was launched to demand that due bonus payments be paid.
Troops loyal to the government began moving toward Bouake, the epicenter of the revolt, on Sunday, and sporadic gunfire was heard there and at military camps in Abidjan overnight. The sound of shots, in both cities, intensified before dawn.
Heavy shooting was also heard in Daloa, a hub for the western cocoa growing regions of the country, on Monday.
“I’ve been hearing the sound of Kalashnikovs and a heavier weapon. That began at around 5:00 am local time (0500 GMT)... It’s intense,” said one Abidjan resident, who lives near the US Embassy and the presidential residence.
Another Abidjan resident said the soldiers had come out of the West African country’s largest military camp and set up barricades, blocking traffic along one of the main roads in the east of the city.
“There was heavy shooting at the northern entrance to the city and in the city center. It’s calmed a bit but we’re still hearing gunfire,” a resident in Bouake said.
In a televised statement on Friday, Genereal Sekou Toure, the army’s chief of staff, had threatened the mutinous soldiers with severe measures if they did not surrender.
The soldiers responded with defiance.
“We’re also ready to fight if we are attacked. We have nothing to lose,” said Sgt. Seydou Kone, a spokesman for the mutineers.
Ivory Coast is a former French colony in West Africa and has a population of 22 million people.