In Ivory Coast 4 killed in clashes between ex-rebels and police

The protesters said security forces opened fire to disperse them, but the government denied responsibility.

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Four people were killed when police clashed May 23 with former rebels who had blocked the road into Bouake, Ivory Coast's second biggest city, to demand government compensation payments play

Four people were killed when police clashed May 23 with former rebels who had blocked the road into Bouake, Ivory Coast's second biggest city, to demand government compensation payments

(AFP)
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Four people were killed and many hurt when police clashed Tuesday with former rebels barricading the road into Bouake, Ivory Coast's second biggest city, in the spillover from a corrosive army mutiny over pay.

The protesters said security forces opened fire to disperse them, but the government denied responsibility.

"Security forces deployed conventional measures to maintain order," Interior Minister Hamed Bakayoko said in a statement.

"But some of the armed demonstrators pulled the pin out of a grenade that exploded among them," he added.

Three bloodied bodies were brought into the main Bouake hospital, an AFP reporter said, shortly after police stepped in to evict protesters who had obstructed the northbound road into Bouake on Monday.

A fourth person later died, he was among around 15 people seriously injured in the clashes, hospital sources said.

The highway into Bouake is the main road for the world's top cocoa producer, linking the economic capital Abidjan in the south to northern Ivory Coast and to its commercially vital neighbour Burkina Faso.

Ivory Coast police officers patrol the entrance of second city Bouake after clashes with former rebels on May 23 play

Ivory Coast police officers patrol the entrance of second city Bouake after clashes with former rebels on May 23

(AFP)

"This is serious," said a rebel spokesman, Amadou Ouattara. "I never would've imagined shooting at unarmed people who are demonstrating."

The violence comes days after a crippling four-day mutiny by former rebels who joined the army in 2011, as peace returned after a decade-long war that had split the country in two.

The 8,400 mutineers last week halted their protest and returned to barracks after reaching an agreement with the government in a pay dispute.

'Sound of grenades'

The rebels protesting in Bouake are among 6,000 nationwide who did not join the army, but who are now demanding identical compensation from the government for the war.

During the 2002-2011 conflict, Bouake was used as rebel headquarters, with a force estimated at tens of thousands.

Security forces were out in significant numbers on Tuesday morning to clear the highway into Bouake, which during last week's mutiny saw some 500 trucks backed up during several days.

Traffic had begun to return to normal this weekend, and police remained stationed on the highway after dispersing the protesters.

The police assault took place in the morning. "Police started hurling tear gas," said Diakite Aboudou, a spokesman for the former rebels.

"We could hear the sound of grenades," he added. "Then we heard automatic gunfire and the sound of Kalashnikovs. The dead were killed by gunfire."

Solidarity Minister Mariatou Kone saying by telephone that she was calling for dialogue and "for calm because violence won't settle anything."

The protesters are demanding the government pay them 18 million CFA francs (27,000 euros) each as compensation for the time they spent fighting.

The mutinous soldiers are to get bonuses of 12 million CFA francs (18,000 euros) each.

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