At least 10 people were killed in attacks against army and police positions in Ivory Coast’s commercial capital and along its eastern border with Ghana, government officials said on Friday.
The attacks were the first since last month, when near daily armed raids on security forces revived fears of renewed instability in the world’s top cocoa grower just a year after a brief civil war killed more than 3,000 people.
The Ivorian government has accused supporters of former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo of organizing the raids, but Gbagbo’s allies have denied involvement and accuse the government of using the violence as a pretext for a crackdown on the opposition.
Gunfire erupted at 3am in the town of Noe, home to a border crossing between Ivory Coast and eastern neighbor Ghana.
“There was an attempted attack against the army deployed at the border,” Ivorian Parliament president Guillaume Soro wrote on Twitter. “The attack occurred in Noe and the target was the army barracks. The attack was successfully repelled.”
Seven attackers were killed by Ivorian forces during a gunbattle that lasted 90 minutes, said a senior army officer who asked not to be named. One government soldier was also wounded.
“The soldiers and police explained that they were attacked by fighters who wanted to seize the border post,” said one town resident, who asked not to be named.
“Lots of soldiers have arrived to reinforce. They are patroling all along the border and searching along the river separating Ivory Coast and Ghana,” he added.
Accusations that Gbagbo allies living in exile in Ghana were involved in planning the violence led Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama to declare that Ghanaian territory would not be used as a base for operations to destabilize its neighbor.
Earlier this week, Ghanaian police said they had arrested three men, including a former Ivorian soldier, for trying to buy arms for a planned coup in Ivory Coast.
The attack on the border came just hours after gunmen tried to seize weapons from two police stations and a gendarmerie in the Port Bouet and Vridi neighborhoods near Abidjan’s airport.
“A bystander was killed by a stray bullet. A passing soldier also lost his life. And one of the attackers was killed,” Ivorian Defense Minister Paul Koffi Koffi told journalists.
While the attacks resembled those of last month when gunmen hit police stations and military barracks in Abidjan and other southern cities in search of weapons, Koffi said he did not believe the raids in the commercial capital were political or linked to the attack near the border.
“These were bandits who were operating yesterday. All the weapons they took have been recuperated,” he said.
Gbagbo was captured during last year’s war, which broke out after he refused to accept defeat in a presidential election in late 2010. He is awaiting trial before the International Criminal Court charged with crimes against humanity.
Most of his top political and military allies are either in jail in Ivory Coast or in exile, mainly in West African countries.