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Abidjan - At least three people have been killed in attacks against army and police installations in Ivory Coast's commercial capital Abidjan and along its eastern border with Ghana, government officials said on Friday.
The attacks were the first since August, 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.
Unidentified gunmen attempted to seize weapons from two police stations and a gendarmerie in the Port Bouet and Vridi neighbourhoods near Abidjan's international airport late on Thursday, the government said.
“A bystander was killed by a stray bullet. A passing soldier also lost his life. And one of the attackers was killed,” Defence Minister Paul Koffi Koffi told journalists at the scene of the attack on Friday.
The government has accused a network of supporters of former president Laurent Gbagbo, both within Ivory Coast and abroad, of organising last month's raids to terrorise the population and scare off foreign investors.
Gbagbo's allies have rejected accusations of involvement in the violence and accuse the security services of widespread round-ups of suspected supporters of the former president.
Koffi Koffi said he did not believe Thursday night's attacks were part of a broader plot.
“These were bandits who were operating yesterday. All the weapons they took have been recuperated,” he said.
Gunfire erupted just hours later in the town of Noe, on the eastern border with Ghana, though Koffi Koffi said that attack was not related to the violence in Abidjan.
“There was an attempted attack against the army in a position along the border,” Guillaume Soro, president of Ivory Coast's parliament, wrote on Twitter.
“The attack occurred in Noe and the target was the army barracks. The attack was successfully repelled,” he said.
Residents said the fighting lasted an hour and a half.
“The soldiers and police explained that they were attacked by fighters who wanted to seize the border post,” said one resident, who asked not to be named. “Lots of soldiers have arrived to reinforce. They are patrolling all along the border and searching along the river separating Ivory Coast and Ghana.”
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 or in exile, mainly in neighbouring west African countries.
Ghana arrested Gbagbo's budget minister Justin Kone Katinan on one of around two dozen international arrest warrants against the ex-president's inner circle issued by Ivory Coast last year. The Ivorian government is seeking his extradition. - Reuters