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Disgruntled Troops Seize Town in Southeastern Ivory Coast


Soldiers of Ivory Coast presidential guard arrive at the port of Abidjan, Jan. 18, 2017.
Soldiers of Ivory Coast presidential guard arrive at the port of Abidjan, Jan. 18, 2017.

Special forces troops poured out of their camp firing weapons in the air and seized control of a town in southeast Ivory Coast on Tuesday in another show of discontent within the military.

The revolt in Adiake, about 95 km (60 miles) east of the commercial capital Abidjan, comes on the heels of a series of mutinies across the country last month that dealt a blow to Ivory Coast's post-war success story.

"Gunfire began earlier in the special forces' camp and then the town began panicking as armed soldiers left the barracks," said a high school teacher, who asked not to be named out of fear of reprisal.

Military sources said Tuesday's mutineers were demanding the payment of bonuses.

The streets cleared as town residents fled indoors and soldiers took up positions around Adiake.

Mutinying soldiers, some wearing balaclavas, manned a roadblock leading into the town, turning away cars and firing their rifles in the air.

"We're not here to play games. We want our money, and we'll have it," one soldier yelled at a team of Reuters journalists attempting to enter the Adiake.

A Defense Ministry official told Reuters that General Lassina Doumbia, commander of the special forces, traveled to Adiake to meet the soldiers in an attempt to end the uprising.

Under the stewardship of President Alassane Ouattara, Ivory Coast has emerged from a decade-long political crisis as one of the world's fastest growing economies and a favorite for investors eyeing frontier market opportunities.

Unrest within the military ranks since last month, however, has led some companies to rethink their investment strategies in the country, the world's top cocoa producer.

The government agreed to a payment demand by a group of mainly former rebel fighters last month who claimed they were owed money for fighting against ex-president Laurent Gbagbo.

Ivorian authorities have not released details but mutiny leaders said the deal included a promise to pay 12 million CFA francs ($19,476.73) to some 8,400 troops.

The payout angered other segments of the military, leading to a wave of copycat mutinies and exposing the deep divisions that still plague the army six years after the 2011 civil war capped a decade of unrest.

While those revolts have eased in recent weeks, one regional security official said that Tuesday's mutiny by the special forces - among the best trained and equipped troops in the army - was worrying.

"This is particularly disturbing," he told Reuters. "This is really stepping it up, because these guys are essentially a presidential unit."

($1 = 616.1200 CFA francs)

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