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Africa
Gbagbo being held by Ouattara forces
Cote d'Ivoire's incumbent president surrenders to forces of the president-elect and calls for end to fighting.
Last Modified: 12 Apr 2011 06:39

Cote d'Ivoire's Laurent Gbagbo has surrendered to the forces of presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara and is being held by them, the UN has said.

"The United Nations mission in Cote d'Ivoire has confirmed that former President Laurent Gbagbo has surrendered to the forces of Alassane Ouattara and is currently in their custody," UN spokesman Farhan Haq said on Monday.

Haq said the UN mission in Cote d'Ivoire, known as UNOCI, was "providing protection and security in accordance with its mandate".

Ouattara, the internationally recognised winner of a Nov 28 presidential poll, said in a short televised address that his government would be initiating legal proceedings against Gbagbo, and that all due measures will be taken to ensure the former president's physical security.

He also urged Ivorians to "abstain from all acts of reprisal or violence", and said he wanted to establish a "truth and reconciliation commission".

Youssoufou Bamba, the Ouattara-appointed Ivorian ambassador to the UN, told Al Jazeera that Gbagbo was being held at an undisclosed location for his own safety. He also indicated that the Ivorian government could move the International Criminal Court to try Gbagbo for alleged crimes against humanity.

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Early reports said Gbagbo was arrested after a raid by French forces on a bunker at his residence in Abidjan.

Toussaint Alain, a Gbagbo advisor, told Reuters that the incumbent president had been "arrested by French special forces in his residence" and "handed over to the rebel leaders".

Jean Marc Simon, the French ambassador to Cote d'Ivoire, said the operation was carried out by soldiers loyal to Ouattara.

A Ouattara spokesman told Al Jazeera that Gbagbo, along with his wife and several advisors, was being held at the Golf Hotel, which has been Ouattara's headquarters since a disputed presidential poll in late November.

Gbagbo was "alive and well", according to Youssoufou Bamba, Cote d'Ivoire's ambassador to the UN, and would be "brought to justice for the crimes he has committed".

Gbagbo later appeared on a pro-Ouattara television station to call for an end to fighting in the country.

"I want us to lay down arms and to enter the civilian part of the crisis, which should be completed rapidly for life in the country to resume," he said, during a brief statement.

Earlier, the same station showed footage of Gbagbo and his wife being brought into the Golf Hotel shortly after news of his capture broke. Footage of him receiving medical treatment was also shown.

Guillaume Soro, Ouattara's appointed prime minister, has asked the population to remain calm.

Soro said Gbagbo's forces should join Ouattara's Republican Guard at once to avoid a manhunt.

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"To all the forces, I make a last appeal to rally (with us) ... there cannot be a manhunt," Soro said in an address to the Ivorian people carried by French television station i-tele. "Join the Republican forces!"

Abdon Bayeto, a Gbagbo representative in the UK, meanwhile, termed the capture a "coup d'etat, perpetrated by France".

He said that Gbagbo's supporters would "continue the struggle".

Gbagbo's surrender comes after 10 days of heavy fighting in Abidjan, and months of a bitter political crisis.

Both sides have been accused of human rights abuses by international organisations, and the UN says at least 800 people have died.

Issiaka Konate, a London-based leader of Ouattara's party, told Al Jazeera that "people will pay for all crimes committed in Ivory Coast", responding to a question regarding rights abuse allegations levelled by Human Rights Watch against pro-Ouattara forces.

Al Jazeera's Haru Mutasa, in Abidjan, reported that the city was tense following the arrest, with neighbourhoods around the presidential residence completely deserted, while those around the Golf Hotel were beginning to fill up with armed Ouattara supporters.

As news filtered through to citizens of the country's commercial capital, however, scenes of jubilant celebration were seen in several pro-Ouattara neighbourhoods.

Ouattara to decide

Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, spoke with Ouattara on the telephone at length shortly after Gbagbo's arrest, the Elysee palace said.

The UN Security Council received a briefing from Alain Le Roy, its Under Secretary-General and Head of Peacekeeping, at the body's headquarters in New York following Gbagbo's capture.

Briefing the media after the meeting, Le Roy said that UNOCI was acting under its mandate by now providing security to Gbagbo, who he said requested the protection himself.

"It is up to President Ouattara to decide ... what he wants to do with former president Gbagbo," Le Roy said.

He also warned that the crisis in Cote d'Ivoire was not over, even though an "important step" had been taken to end the violence.

In a statement, Barack Obama, the US president, said the United States "welcomes the decisive turn of events in Cote d'Ivoire", and that Ouattara must now focus on governing "on behalf of all the people ... including those who did not vote for him".

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, said the international community still had a role to play in the country.

"We have to help them to restore stability, rule of law and address all humanitarian and security issues," he said.

French assault

Earlier on Monday, a column of more than 30 French armoured vehicles and tanks were seen advancing towards Gbagbo's residence. Two tanks took positions at a key intersection, while the rest of the vehicles advanced on the compound.

The battle for Abidjan

 
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Forces loyal to Gbagbo were seen fleeing the area, as the French forces advanced.

Meanwhile, forces loyal to Ouattara attacked positions around the state television station [which was still controlled by Gbagbo] and his home.

A French military representative denied that French operations on the presidential residence had been co-ordinated with Ouattara's forces.

Clashes between French and pro-Gbagbo forces were also reported from around the nearby Plateau business district.

Early in the day and through Sunday night, UN and French helicopters fired rockets at Gbagbo's residence in Abidjan.

At the time, Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, said he had given orders to use "all necessary means" to stop Gbagbo''s heavy weapons.

Speaking to Al Jazeera on Sunday, UN spokesman Hamadoun Toure said UN helicopters were only targeting heavy weapons sites and not Gbagbo himself.

"We are not trying to take control of his residence ... Our objective is not to capture anybody," Toure said.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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