Monday, April 11, 2011
BREAKING NEWS: Ivory Coast Gbagbo captured
Ivory Coast's self-declared president Laurent Gbagbo has been captured and will be brought to justice, the country's ambassador to the United Nations Youssoufou Bamba said Monday.
Gbagbo "is well and alive and will be brought to justice," said Bamba.
Security forces loyal to president-elect Alassane Ouattara arrested him, the former rebel leader turned prime minister Guillaume Soro told Agence-France Presse.
Forces loyal to the two men who claim to be president of Ivory Coast had clashed in the country's main city overnight, the United Nations and a local resident told CNN Monday.
U.N. forces are not planning strikes on Gbabgo's forces Monday but were prepared to hit his troops "if it's needed," said Hamadoun Toure, a spokesman for U.N. mission to the country.
The U.N. "was not involved" in the fighting between Gbagbo's troops and those of Alassane Ouattara overnight, Toure said.
Gbagbo lost a presidential election to Ouattara in November, according to international observers, but refused to leave office. The two sides have been battling for control of the main city, Abidjan, for weeks.
U.N. military helicopters pounded heavy weapons positions of fighters loyal to Gbagbo on Sunday, United Nations officials said.
The attack came after pro-Gbagbo forces shelled the hotel where Ouattara and the United Nations are headquartered, said Choi Young-jin, head of the U.N. mission in the country.
"So we decided we cannot pass this moment without action," Choi said.
Together with the French military, U.N. forces targeted key positions. Choi said there were "several camps" belonging to the Gbagbo loyalists. "We are taking them out."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he ordered the military operation Sunday "to prevent the use of heavy weapons which threaten the civilian population of Abidjan and our peacekeepers."
The U.N. mission does not extend to extracting Gbagbo from his residence, Choi said. It would be up to pro-Ouattara forces to oust Gbagbo, he said.
Ban renewed his call for Gbagbo "to step aside immediately."
"Civilians are bearing the brunt of the violence," the secretary-general said. "The fighting must stop. Mr. Gbagbo needs to step aside immediately."
U.N. spokesman Toure said that Gbagbo loyalists continue to control three main areas -- the presidential palace, Gbagbo's residence and the state television station, RTI. He said the French military and U.N. forces are in charge of the Abidjan port.
Violence erupted after Ivory Coast's disputed presidential election in November and escalated into all-out war when Ouattara's forces launched an offensive that brought them into Abidjan.
As Gbagbo has refused to cede power, the political stalemate has plunged the cocoa-producing West African nation into crisis.
The U.N. human rights office said Friday that its investigators found more than 100 bodies over 24 hours in three Ivory Coast towns.
Ouattara's forces appeared to be on the verge of capturing Gbagbo last week, but he seems to have used an offer to negotiate as a way to buy time and gather his forces.
Mark Toner, acting deputy spokesman for the U.S. State Department, released a statement Saturday echoing that idea.
"It is clear that Gbagbo's attempts at negotiation this week were nothing more than a ruse to regroup and rearm. Gbagbo's continued attempt to force a result that he could not obtain at the ballot box reveals his callous disregard for the welfare of the Ivorian people, who will again suffer amid renewed heavy fighting in Abidjan," he said.
Most areas of the capital, however, are now under U.N. or French military control, journalist Seyi Rhodes reported from the French military base in Port Bouet. The French military has been working to reconnect the disrupted water and electricity supply in the country's main city.
Posted by otol at 11:02 AM