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Soldiers in Ivory Coast reject government proposal to end mutiny


Heavy gunfire erupted on Monday in Ivory Coast's two largest cities - Abidjan and Bouake - witnesses said, as the military pressed an operation aimed at ending a four-day nationwide army mutiny over bonus payments.

I heard the shooting.

The Military Chief of Staff, General Sekou Toure, issued a statement announcing the new offensive as loyalist soldiers advanced on Bouake, Al Jazeera reported Sunday night.

Bouake, which was at the epicentre of the January mutiny, served as the rebel headquarters following a failed coup in 2002 which split Ivory Coast in half and led to years of unrest.

This comes after the fragile peace in the West African country was shattered yet again on Saturday when a group of soldiers blocked off access to Bouake, killing three and declaring their readiness to take on government forces if attacked.

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A soldier with the convoy, contacted by Reuters, said it was stopping only for a short time before continuing to Bouake.

The troubles date back to January, when thousands of disgruntled soldiers mutinied, protesting that promised bonuses and back pay had not been delivered.

"The population rose up, but the mutineers quickly dispersed the march with shots", said Bouake resident Simon Guede.

A spokesman for the mutiny denied that clashes had occurred and said renegade soldiers were firing in the air to dissuade any military advance on the city.

Shots were also heard from the Gallieni camp in the centre of the city.

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The 8,400 mutineers, majority former rebels who said they were promised bonuses for fighting to bring President Alassane Ouattara to power, received 5m CFA francs (£6,500) each to end the January uprising.

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.

Then in a surprise move on Thursday, a spokesman for the former rebels apologised on national television and agreed to drop their demands for the remaining money. The two sides settled their fight within days after Ouattara offered to pay them $15,500 apiece, according to the BBC - a promise the news agency says Ouattara has only partly fulfilled.

One person was killed Sunday when the mutinous soldiers used guns to disperse residents protesting their violence in Bouake. One man, a demobilised former rebel fighter, died on Sunday.

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".

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