Several injured as Ivory Coast police clear no-vending area
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AFP) — Ivory Coast police yesterday fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of young peddlers from a market area in Abidjan, sparking clashes where gunshots were fired and several people were hurt, witnesses said.
The clashes began after several hundred youths fought a police operation to disperse peddlers who were blocking traffic on roads surrounding the main market area in the Abobo neighbourhood, witnesses said.
"Police initially reacted by dispersing them using tear gas. The youths responded by throwing stones at the police," said one witness who wished to remain anonymous.
With help from the armed forces, the police then fired warning shots, before the clashes escalated with gunfire, another witness said.
Several protesters were injured, the witnesses said, with one source later adding that one soldier was among those hurt.
Police eventually pushed back the protesters, but by late afternoon the clashes had resumed with a further exchange of gunfire that saw the army using high-calibre weapons.
Urban Safety Minister Anne Desiree Ouloto told AFP that "police were shot at by people at the scene," adding that it was a "dangerous area".
"The safety operation we had wanted to launch revealed that there were people carrying illegal weapons in the area," she said.
Abobo was one of the epicentres of the post-electoral violence that broke out in Ivory Coast following ex-Ivorian leader Laurent Gbagbo's refusal to cede power to Alassane Ouattara in November 2010.