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Disgruntled Soldiers In Ivory Coast Mutiny Over Back Pay Issues

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And let's go to West Africa now and Ivory Coast. A mutiny by soldiers there has entered its fourth day. The soldiers are demanding bonuses and back pay. There's been heavy gunfire again today in the West African nation's two largest cities. Here's NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: The city of Abidjan awoke to the echo of gunfire at a military camp and the main business district and could be heard near the U.S. embassy and the presidential residence. Shooting was also reported in Bouake, erstwhile headquarters of the rebellion in Ivory Coast. This is the latest eruption of violence by former rebels now integrated in the army who helped propel Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara to power in 2011 after disputed elections and a civil war. The troubles date back to January, when thousands of disgruntled soldiers mutinied, protesting that promised bonuses and back pay had not been delivered. President Ouattara agreed to pay up.

But a surprise televised announcement Thursday night by a spokesman for the mutineers apologizing and saying they dropped demands for bonus payments has prompted more protests. Flexing their muscles, the mutineers want immediate payment of all outstanding bonuses, directly challenging the president and the military chief. If the mutineers can't be placated, Ivory Coast, once a prosperous and stable oasis in turbulent West Africa, again risks descending into violence.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Lagos.

(SOUNDBITE OF YPPAH'S "NEVER MESS WITH SUNDAY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.