Soldiers in Ivory Coast’s second largest city looted weapons from the base of a rival elite military unit before setting it on fire during an overnight clash, leaders of the faction that carried out the raid said.
The soldiers, involved in a series of mutinies last year that tarnished the image of Ivory Coast, one of Africa’s fastest growing economies, accuse the elite unit, known as the CCDO, of spying on them.
Gunshots and heavy weapons fire erupted between the rival factions on Tuesday, though residents said the situation on Wednesday was calm after early sporadic gunfire and businesses were operating normally.
“We entered the CCDO camp around midnight and took all their arms and ammunition,” a faction leader, who asked not to be named, told Reuters. “Their troops fled but we are looking for them.”
A government spokesman said there were no deaths in the clash and about 100 troops along with armoured vehicles and attack helicopters were sent to Bouake to reinforce security.
Footage of damage at the CCDO base broadcast on state television showed burned vehicles and offices gutted by fire. Authorities are investigating.
The CCDO is a rapid reaction unit composed of army soldiers, paramilitary gendarmes and police officers.
“We have to stop this. I’ve asked soldiers to keep their heads. No matter what their demands are, they can’t launch such brutal protests,” Nicolas Djibo, Bouake mayor, told state broadcaster RTI.
Bouake, in the centre of the west African nation, was the epicentre of several months of army mutinies last year that spread across the nation, forcing government to yield to demands for bonuses and promotions.
But last year’s instability laid bare the dangerous divisions that still persist within an army cobbled together from rival rebel and loyalist factions at the end of a 2011 civil war.