Military unrest, gunfire paralyze city areas in Ivory Coast

Heavy gunfire has erupted in Ivory Coast's two biggest cities, as a mutiny in the army enters its fourth day.

"I've been hearing the sound of Kalashnikovs and a heavier weapon".

Defence Minister Alain-Richard Donwahi said on state television late on Monday: "To end the stalemate and avoid any more bereavement of families, the army chief of staff held talks with the soldiers on Sunday and Monday".

Another Abidjan resident said mutinying soldiers came out of the country's largest military camp and erected barricades, blocking traffic along one of the main thoroughfares in the east of the city.

A spokesman for the soldiers, speaking from Bouake, told VOA that soldiers are not attempting a coup.

Former rebel soldiers mutinied in Bouake on Friday to demand the payment of bonuses. The unrest quickly spread across the cocoa-producing country - to the commercial capital, Abidjan, and to the cities of San Pedro, Man, Bondoukou and Daloa.

Several explosions and sporadic shooting rocked Bouake, an important transit hub that links Ivory Coast to its landlocked northern neighbors, from about 2 a.m., resident Siriki Koné said by phone Monday.

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Tamasin says one of the problems is that the government has less money to spend at the moment because of the declining price of cocoa - the country's main export.

A spokesman for the mutiny, Sergeant Seydou Kone, said: "We met with the soldiers in Tiebissou and they asked us to lay down our arms and surrender".

But in a surprise televised announcement Thursday, a spokesman for the soldiers apologized and declared they would be dropping their demands for the rest of their payment.

A spokesman for the group said on Thursday they had dropped demands for the remaining money, an announcement rejected by numerous soldiers who sparked the current revolt.

Ivory Coast has emerged as one of the world's fastest growing economies following a decade-long political crisis ended by a 2011 civil war. But deep divisions persist, particularly in a military assembled from former rebel and loyalist combatants.

The soldiers, majority former rebels, were promised 12 million CFA francs ($19,936) for backing Ouattara after former President Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept an election defeat in 2010, but they have received less than half of the cash.

In Abidjan, gunfire has been heard near the presidential palace and the U.S. Embassy, while in Bouake, at least one major entrance into the city has been barred by soldiers.

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