Africa

Ivory Coast seeks end to unrest as gunfire cuts off port

Gunfire cut off access to Ivory Coast's largest commercial port on Wednesday as officials pleaded with security forces to end the unrest that has shaken Africa's fastest-growing economy and threatened a return to instability.

Witnesses reported the gunfire in the West African nation's commercial hub, Abidjan. "All access to the port has been blocked" after military police shot into the air, said port worker Jose Gauthe.

The unrest began with a mutiny launched Jan. 6 by former rebel fighters who helped bring President Alassane Ouattara to power during a postelection crisis in 2011.

Last Friday, the mutineers announced the government had agreed to their demands for bonuses of nearly $20,000 for more than 8,000 fighters. The government has not confirmed the terms, but some mutineers began receiving payments this week.

On Tuesday, soldiers in the capital, Yamoussoukro, who were not included in the deal began demanding bonuses of their own, and military police opened fire in several cities.

Government spokesman Bruno Kone said Wednesday that four people had been killed in Yamoussoukro, up from the two deaths reported earlier. It was not clear if the dead were all soldiers.

"Dialogue is ongoing, but you must silence your weapons so that the population isn't afraid," Defense Minister Alain-Richard Donwahi said in a statement after a cabinet meeting addressing the crisis.

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Associated Press writer Robbie Corey-Boulet in Abidjan contributed.