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Rebels soldiers wound 6 while tightening grip on I Coast city

AFP  |  Bouake (Ivory Coast) 

Renegade soldiers wounded six people in Ivory Coast's second-largest city today as they fired warning shots into the air to keep people in their homes.

A mother of three children and five men were brought to hospital in the central city of Bouake after being shot by the rebels, who took to the streets Friday in a protest over pay.

The soldiers had already shot and wounded one person Saturday as they blocked access to the city, while another person was injured by soldiers rebelling in Korhogo, the main city in the country's north.

Defiant soldiers have also rebelled in the central city of Daloa, a trading centre.

Today, the rebel soldiers in Bouake took up positions in a square in front of the police headquarters, shooting into the air to prevent residents gathering for a planned protest against the rebels' actions.

"The shooting continues. The mutineers aren't letting people leave their homes to demonstrate," said a resident who requested anonymity.

"There's too much shooting this morning, it's practically impossible to go and attend mass. I'll pray with my family at home," another resident, Jean Yves Kobena, said.

The soldiers posted at the four main access points to Bouake have also been extorting money from drivers hoping to cross the city, stopping most traffic in and out of Bouake.

Soldiers also rebelled in the economic capital of Abidjan on Friday, surrounding military headquarters in the city before being driven back by loyalist forces.

Bouake was the epicentre of a mutiny in January by former rebel soldiers who had been integrated into the army.

Negotiations yesterday between the rebels and military commanders in Bouake failed to end the blockade of the city, and rebels warned they would fight back if the army tried to intervene.

"They can send whoever they want. We're ready," one of several masked soldiers at one checkpoint told AFP yesterday.

The January mutiny saw the government promise to pay them 12 million CFA francs (18,000 euros) each, with an initial payment of five million francs that month.

The remainder was to be paid starting this month, according to rebel sources.

Many of the soldiers participated in the 2002 uprising aimed at bolstering support for President Alassane Ouattara against Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to accept his electoral defeat.

The rebels controlled the northern half of Ivory Coast until 2011, and were later integrated into the army after years of conflict.

On Thursday, a soldier presented as a spokesman for some 8,400 former rebels said in a televised ceremony that they wished to apologise to President Ouattara for the mutiny.

The world's top cocoa provider, Ivory Coast has an army numbering around 22,000 soldiers, but falling cocoa prices have severely crimped the government's finances.

Last year, the government unveiled an ambitious plan to modernise the military, part of which would involve the departure of several thousand men, particularly ex-rebels, who will not be replaced.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, May 14 2017. 18:28 IST