Ivory Coast violence: Abidjan army attack kills seven

A patrol of the Ivory Coast Republican Force (FRCI) ride to a search operation on August 6, 2012 in Bingerville, a town near Abidjan. The army is conducting extra patrols looking for the attackers

At least six soldiers have been killed in an attack by gunmen on an army base in Ivory Coast's main city, Abidjan.

One assailant was also killed in the gun battle which lasted several hours in the Riviera district of Abidjan.

This follows the shooting of four soldiers on Sunday in an attack on a police station and an army checkpoint in Yopougon to the east of the city.

It is not clear who was behind the attack. Ivory Coast is recovering from months of unrest after a disputed poll.

The two attacks are said to be the biggest in Abidjan since former President Laurent Gbagbo was ousted in April 2011.

The BBC's John James in Abidjan says there is a gory scene at the Akouedo military camp, with bodies lying on the ground and blood spattered over the walls.

Corp Ousmane Kone, who took part in the fighting, told Reuters news agency that the attackers had made off with guns.

"They took lots of weapons, loaded them in a truck and drove off with them. They took AK-47s [automatic rifles], machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades," he said.

Two theories

"Akouedo was attacked from 03:30 (03:30 GMT) in the morning. The guards were able to react. The situation is under control," said the head of the national assembly, Guillaume Soro, on his Twitter account.

Analysis

This attack certainly gives Ivorians the jitters - especially those tempted to believe the violence of the past 10 years was finished.

The assailants may not have had much chance of taking control of the Akouedo base, which has a UN peacekeeping base at its heart, but it shows the Ivorian army is vulnerable to surprise attacks, and many soldiers complain of being woefully under-equipped.

This incident will also increase tensions between those in the new unified armed forces about who is loyal to whom.

The army struggles both from a lack of weaponry because of the continuing UN arms embargo, but also from its mixed make-up of former rebels from the north, regular troops and recent volunteers due for disarmament.

With so many small arms in circulation, and limited progress on reconciliation, this may not be the last of this type of incident.

"The attackers just want to give the impression that the security situation in Ivory Coast is precarious," he added.

The army is patrolling the areas east of Abidjan looking for the attackers.

Our reporter says while there is no firm information about the assailants, there are two main theories - they were either supporters of Mr Gbagbo were trying to cause trouble, or there was a disagreement between the disparate groups, some with little formal military training, who are being integrated into the military.

Our reporter also says it is not clear whether the two attacks are linked.

UN peacekeepers have been posted at key junctions.

Defence Minister Paul Koffi Koffi has told AFP the Yopougon attack was an apparent bid to free people who had been arrested the previous day.

Yopougon district suffered some of the heaviest fighting during the battle for control of Abidjan last year following the disputed elections.

Although Abidjan has been relatively peaceful recently, there have been outbreaks of unrest, especially in the west of the country, which correspondents say remains awash with guns.

Some 3,000 people were killed in a dispute after the November 2010 poll.

Mr Gbagbo refused to accept defeat to President Alassane Ouattara, who eventually ousted his rival with the help of former rebel forces, the UN and former colonial power France.

Mr Gbagbo is currently in The Hague, awaiting trial at the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity.

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