Five Ivory Coast soldiers are killed by unidentified gunmen Monday, the defense minister says
A separate attack Sunday killed another five soldiers
An attack also occurred Sunday in Abengourou but no one was killed, state media reports
Ten Ivory Coast soldiers have been killed in attacks Sunday and Monday by unidentified gunmen in Abidjan, the economic capital, the defense minister said.
The attacks come just before the country celebrates its independence on Tuesday.
The first of the attacks occurred before dawn on Sunday and took place in Abidjan’s neighborhood of Yopougon, a stronghold of the former president, Laurent Gbago.
The gunmen attacked the Abidjan’s 17th district police station after about 50 people were arrested in the neighborhood in a preventive raid carried out by the Ivorian army earlier in the night, defense minister Paul Koffi Koffi said by phone from Abidjan Sunday.
He said six armed men carried out the attack in which three soldiers were killed.
“The gunmen arrived in a taxi and started to fire without any warning,” said Koffi Koffi. The assailants wore army-style uniforms and were armed with AK-47 rifles, he said.
The group of armed men then fired at a checkpoint of the Forces Républicaines de Côte d’Ivoire, the national army’s official name. The base is located in the same neighborhood and the shooting left two more soldiers dead, the defense minister said.
There was no reason so far to think the attack was anything other than “an act of banditry,” Koffi Koffi said Sunday.
But Monday before dawn, 30 gunmen attacked an Abidjan military camp, killing five more. Again, some were wearing army-like uniforms, though not all, he said.
He added that one soldier is missing and one attacker was killed in the incident.
Read more: Seven peacekeepers killed in Ivory Coast
An Ivoirian soldier who was in the camp during the fight said the gunmen were targeting soldiers from the Dioula ethnic group, a population native to the Northern Ivory Coast and said to support President Alassane Ouattara.
At least 3,000 people were killed last year in five months of post-election violence after ex-President Laurent Gbagbo refused to cede power to Ouattara.
An emergency security meeting with army and government officials was held Monday in Abidjan by Ouattara, Koffi Koffi said. The president pledged to reinforce the security in the country before the Independence Day, Koffi Koffi said.
There was another attack Sunday against a military camp in Abengourou, which is about 140 miles northeast of Abidjan, the Ivory Coast’s state media reported, citing anonymous sources. The report said no one was killed.