A raid on an army base in Abidjan killed at least six soldiers on Monday, in the latest of a string of attacks targeting the military in the Ivory Coast economic capital.
President Alassane Ouattara has struggled to stabilise a country still awash with weapons and demobbed fighters, more than a year after the end of a deadly post-election crisis.
Gunmen stormed the Akouedo military base, which also houses a contingent of the United Nations peacekeeping force ONUCI, in Abidjan’s Cocody neighbourhood before dawn, residents and officials said.
The camp was attacked from both sides but army reinforcements forced the attackers to flee, Defence Minister Paul Koffi Koffi said as he visited the site.
“We have lost six of our men and the attackers lost one of theirs,” he said, flanked by the interior minister and the army chief of staff.
Four bodies could be seen strewn on the blood-splattered floor of a building at the entrance of the camp and two others at a sentry post and another gate, an AFP correspondent reported before the officials’ visit.
All the victims were wearing military fatigues.
“Several armed men attacked the Akouedo camp, breaking in before heading for the powder magazine,” an official in Ivory Coast’s military command said without identifying the attackers.
“The men posted in the camp had to regroup before retaliating. The attackers fled towards Bingerville,” a nearby town, he said.
ONUCI chief Bert Koenders said in a statement that the provisional casualty toll for the attack was seven dead and 10 seriously wounded.
A UN official speaking on condition of anonymity said the peacekeepers did not take part in the exchange of fire.
The attack on the Akouedo base came after gunmen killed five soldiers in twin attacks on a police station and an army post in Abidjan’s Yopougon district in the early hours of Sunday.
Koffi had told AFP that Sunday’s attack was an apparent bid to free people who had been arrested the previous day but did not rule out involvement from renegade soldiers.
“We’ll see if the investigation leads us to members of the military, of the police or civilians,” he said.
Tensions continue to spark violence in Ivory Coast despite the end of five months of fighting which followed the December 2010 polls, when ex-president Laurent Gbagbo refused to concede defeat at the ballot box to Ouattara.
Ouattara’s government has been trying to disarm and reintegrate fighters involved in both sides of the conflict into the Ivorian army to reduce the violence.
Gbagbo is currently facing charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Security officials had also reported an exchange of fire near the border with Ghana on Sunday.
Following Monday’s deadly attack, the Ivorian armed forces started patrolling Bingerville with heavily-armed vehicles and set-up roadblocks.
The former French colony will mark 52 years of independence on Tuesday with celebrations led by Ouattara that will include the traditional military parade in Abidjan