Ivory Coast violence: Gbagbo allies 'attacked Abidjan'

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

Fighters loyal to ex-Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo carried out recent attacks in Abidjan, killing 10 soldiers, a minister has said.

Hamed Bakayoko told Radio France International (RFI) he believed the attackers received their orders from Gbagbo loyalists in neighbouring Ghana.

One assailant was also killed in the gun battle on Monday in the Riviera district of Abidjan, the main city.

Ivory Coast is recovering from months of unrest after a disputed poll.

The attacks on Sunday and Monday were said to be the biggest in Abidjan since Mr Gbagbo was ousted in April 2011.

"They [the attackers] were people who come from the myriad pro-Gbagbo militiamen and former armed forces nostalgic of the Gbagbo regime," Mr Bakayoko told RFI.

He believed that "everything was ordered" by pro-Gbagbo militiamen who fled to Ghana after they were ousted from power in Abidjan, RFI reports.

Mr Bakayoko told state TV the army would step up its presence across the country.

'Weapons stolen'

"The orders have been given, our instructions are firm," he said.

"From today, you'll be able to note this by the presence of our men in all the districts of Abidjan as well as towns in the interior."

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

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.

The head of the national assembly, Guillaume Soro, said the situation was under control.

"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.

UN peacekeepers have been posted at key junctions.

Defence Minister Paul Koffi Koffi had 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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