(AFP) – Jun 28, 2008
ABIDJAN (AFP) — Soldiers loyal to a renowned rebel fighter in the Ivory Coast led a short-lived mutiny on Saturday, attacking their headquarters in the centre west of the country, officials said.
A local journalist said one of the mutineers died and another was wounded in the action which also resulted in the deaths of three civilians. This was not immediately confirmed by government sources.
Officials said 60 soldiers loyal to Zacharia Kone had mutinied before demanding the protection of the French military force deployed in Ivory Coast as a condition of their surrender.
Kone, a renowned rebel fighter, was sacked in May as commander for the Seguela zone for an "act of indiscipline". He is now in exile in Ouagadougou.
Officials told AFP the mutiny had begun in the town of Vavoua in the centre west of the country before spreading to nearby Seguela.
"There has been one dead and one wounded on the side of the assailants," said journalist Dominique Sam. "When calm returned, residents said that three civilians had been killed but I have not seen their bodies," he said.
Alan Lobognon, communications adviser to Prime Minister Guillaume Soro -- himself a former leader of the rebel New Forces (FN) movement to which the soldiers belonged -- confirmed the surrender.
"The situation is calm. They have returned to barracks," said FN spokesman Seydou Ouattara, adding that two groups of soldiers had been seen firing into the air earlier Saturday.
"To our great surprise, members of Zacharia Kone's guard revolted at Vavoua and Seguela," said tourism minister Sidiki Konate, also a senior FN figure.
Ouattara said the soldiers were protesting the payment of demobilisation allowances, but Konate maintained the action was sparked by a "command problem" following Kone's departure.
Ivory Coast, the world's top cocoa grower and a former star French colony, was sliced in half after a September 2002 coup attempt against President Laurent Gbagbo.
But after a peace accord, a government was installed earlier this year with Gbagbo sharing power with former FN rebel chief Soro serving as prime minister.
At the end of May, more than 2,500 rebel fighters demobilised and were grouped in two camps.
The subsequent phases of disarmament and integration for the New Forces' estimated 36,000 fighters are due to be completed before long delayed presidential elections are held on November 30.
About 10,000 of them are scheduled to be inducted into the army while the remaining 26,000 will be reintegrated into the civil mainstream after receiving training in vocational skills.
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