July 22, 2017 / 1:45 PM / 3 years ago

Gendarmes in Ivory Coast repel raid as international event opens

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Gendarmes in Ivory Coast fought off an overnight attack on their base north of the main city of Abidjan, a security spokesman said on Saturday as thousands of people arrived in the country for an international sports and cultural event.

Police officers carry their weapons as they stand on the premises of the National Police Academy in the Cocody neighborhood in Abidjan, Ivory Coast July 20, 2017. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

The attack in the town of Azaguie came days after gunmen struck the base of an elite security unit in Abidjan, some 40 km (25 miles) to the south, stealing weapons and killing one person.

“The brigade was attacked during the night and this morning in Azaguie,” a gendarmerie spokesman said. “There were no victims, only an exchange of gunfire and after the assailants left again.”

He said the aim appeared to be to steal weapons, as it was in the earlier attack in Abidjan, but the raiders had been unsuccessful: “We’ve taken steps in the past few days and therefore there are no weapons stocks in our brigades.”

The raids follow months of uprisings by members of the security forces demanding bonus payments, prompting President Alassane Ouattara to reshuffle top security posts in his government earlier this week.

Ouattara, who was sworn in following a 2011 civil war, is eager to put a stop to the mutinies that have tarnished Ivory Coast’s image as a post-conflict success story.

In Abidjan, the gunmen, some wearing military uniforms, succeeded in seizing rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and communications equipment as well as crates of ammunition, at least some of which was later recovered.

A senior army officer, who asked not to be named, said orders had been given to all the security services to relocate weapons stores to make them less vulnerable to such raids.

The Jeux de la Francophonie, a 10-day event expected to involve the participation of some 3,000 athletes and artists from around the French-speaking world, opened in Abidjan on Friday night.

Ouattara’s government is hoping the games, which are held every four years, will provide an international showcase for Ivory Coast’s revival following more than a decade of political turmoil and war.

Reporting by Ange Aboa; Additional reporting and writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Helen Popper

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