Abidjan: Ivory Coast`s new army turned its guns on a former ally who helped install the democratically elected president but failed on Thursday to defeat his forces who are dug into a neighborhood of Abidjan, military sources said.
Infighting among forces who recognize President Alassane Ouattara also erupted on Wednesday in the southwestern cocoa port of San Pedro, the sources said.
One source said the shooting started when one group of soldiers tried to stop another from looting. U.N. peacekeepers intervened to stop the combat after the fighters started launching mortars and rockets in downtown San Pedro, said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.
Residents said heavy machine-gun fire rocked Abidjan`s working-class suburb of Abobo about 5 p.m. (1700 GMT) Wednesday near renegade warlord Ibrahim "IB" Coulibaly`s headquarters. Residents scattered and ran to lock themselves into their homes. Coulibaly orchestrated two failed coup attempts in 1999 and 2002.
Four military sources from both sides confirmed that the new army of former rebels led by Prime Minister Guillaume Soro, who also is Ivory Coast`s defense minister, attacked Coulibaly`s headquarters but were met with fierce resistance that lasted more than an hour. Coulibaly and Soro are longtime rivals.
A fighter in Coulibaly`s forces who uses the nom-de-guerre Capt. Meyo Aka told The Associated Press that they drove government troops back and they finally left.
Coulibaly on Sunday pledged allegiance to Ouattara during an AP interview, saying he regards as a father the man whose wife he protected as head of her bodyguard corps from 1990 to 1993 when he was an army chief sergeant and Ouattara was prime minister.
Analyst Richard Moncrieff of the South African Institute for International Affairs said Ouattara does not have command and control over the troops who entered Abidjan to force strongman Laurent Gbagbo from the presidency.
"This could have serious repercussions for what is to come," Moncrieff said.
Also on Thursday, the African Union removed its sanctions on Ivory Coast. The AU, which endorsed Ouattara`s electoral victory, had imposed the sanctions to target Gbagbo, whose refusal to step down propelled the country into chaos.
The AU also urged Ouattara to start the peace-building process as soon as possible and to reconcile his people.
Gbagbo lost November elections but refused to accept defeat. He is currently under arrest and faces possible trials.
A million people have fled the capital of about 5 million and another million are displaced in the country or have fled to neighboring states. Thousands have been killed and wounded.