Gunfire erupted overnight in the central Ivory Coast city of Bouake as demobilised soldiers seized weapons from police stations and took up positions at entry points into the city, military sources said on Friday. Heavy shooting was heard at around 2 a.m. (0200 GMT) before later easing, residents said, and sporadic gunfire continued into the late morning.
“The city is under the control of former (soldiers),” said an army officer, who spoke by telephone from Bouake. “There are many of them at the north and south entrances to the city. We are on alert and await instructions from the hierarchy.”
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An officer at the West African nation’s military headquarters in the commercial capital Abidjan said reinforcements had been sent to Bouake.
The city was the seat of a rebellion that controlled the northern half of the world’s top cocoa grower from 2002 until Ivory Coast was reunited following a civil war in 2011.
Residents stayed inside and businesses in Bouake remained closed on Friday morning.
“The city is deserted. Men in balaklavas are patrolling the city on motorcycles or in cars. They aren’t attacking residents … They told us to stay at home,” said Ami Soro, a teacher living in Bouake.