Businesses, banks closed in Ivory Coast cocoa hub Daloa - residents

Businesses, banks closed in Ivory Coast cocoa hub Daloa - residents

Cocoa businesses, banks and government buildings in Ivory Coast's western cocoa hub, Daloa, were shut on Monday, residents said, amid gunfire linked to a four-day nationwide army mutiny.

"I've been hearing the sound of Kalashnikovs and a heavier weapon". Last month, the government revised its 2017 budget facing lower income from cocoa, its main export crop, limiting its ability to pay soldiers.

A soldier with the convoy, contacted by Reuters, said it was stopping only for a short time before continuing to Bouake.

When about 8,400 of the 22,000-strong armed forces first mutinied in January the government paid them a bonus worth about £6,500 each.

Major cities across Ivory Coast awoke to the clatter of gunfire Monday. "It's calmed a bit but we're still hearing gunfire", said one Bouaké resident.

Border posts closed, snarling road traffic to Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, while the west African nation's second biggest city, Bouake, was under the control of mutinous soldiers.

Sporadic gunfire was heard overnight in Bouake as well as at military camps in the commercial capital Abidjan.

Shots were also heard from Gallieni camp in the city centre.

Mutinous soldiers shot three people on Saturday and cut off access to the second largest city, Bouake, as a revolt escalated over demands for bonus payments.

Ivory Coast's defense minister, Alain-Richard Donwahi, said on state-run television late Monday that an agreement with the solders had been reached.

The unrest shows the enduring vulnerability of the world's biggest cocoa producer since it emerged from a decade-long conflict that ended in 2011 when Alassane Ouattara, 75, came to power. One man, a demobilized former rebel fighter, died on Sunday.

But in a surprise televised announcement Thursday, a spokesman for the soldiers apologized and declared they would be dropping their demands for the rest of their payment.

The issue triggered a wave of mutinies that has exposed the lack of unity in a military assembled from former rebel and loyalist combatants.

The mutineers, a lot of them former rebel fighters who fought to bring President Alassane Ouattara to power, had sealed off Bouake and used gunfire to break up protests against the revolt, which began when a spokesman for the group dropped demands for extra pay promised by the government during negotiations to end a previous mutiny in January. "But we want 7 million to be paid in one payment and immediately", Sergeant Seydou Kone, one of the spokesmen, told Reuters.

The mutineers said they would not surrender.