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Army turns fire on militia allies

Ivory Coast's new army has turned its guns on a former ally who helped liberate Abidjan and install the democratically elected president, military sources said.

Residents said heavy machine-gun fire rocked the working-class suburb of Abobo on Wednesday around renegade warlord Ibrahim "IB" Coulibaly's headquarters. Mr Coulibaly orchestrated two failed coup attempts in 1999 and 2002 before starting a rebellion.

Four military sources from both sides confirmed that the new army of former rebels led by prime minister and defence minister Guillaume Soro attacked Mr Coulibaly's headquarters but were met with fierce fighting that lasted more than an hour.

"We drove them back all the way to their base at the mayor's office," Captain Felix Anoble of Mr Coulibaly's Invisible Commando said.

Capt Anoble named three commanders under Mr Soro's forces as leading the attack, including fighters for General Issiaka Wattao.

Gen Wattao had earlier denied that there had been in-fighting among pro-Ouattara forces. He said that Mr Coulibaly was not a problem, but suggested that he would be attacked if he did not accept Mr Ouattara's authority as president.

Mr Coulibaly on Sunday pledged allegiance to Mr Ouattara, saying he regards as a father the man whose bodyguard corps he led from 1990 to 1993 when he was an army sergeant and Mr Ouattara was prime minister.

Mr Coulibaly began the rebellion to oust Laurent Gbagbo that divided the country between north and south, but he and Mr Soro fought violent battles for leadership of the rebel movement in 2004, which Mr Soro won.

It is not clear what power Mr Ouattara, a technocrat and former deputy chief of the International Monetary Fund, has over the former warlords. He initially tried to distance himself from the rebels who were fighting in his name. But when his calls for international aid to oust Mr Gbagbo went unanswered, he acknowledged their loyalty to him and now calls them the Republican Forces of Ivory Coast, commanded by Gen Wattao.

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