Defiant Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo has been captured at his residence, ending a four-month power struggle in the West African country.
Fighters backing the country’s internationally-recognized president, Alassane Ouattara, took Mr. Gbagbo into custody Monday after a joint assault with French special forces on the Gbagbo residence in Abidjan.
Mr. Gbagbo had refused for months to cede power to Mr. Ouattara, the U.N.-certified winner of last November’s presidential election. He had been entrenched at the presidential compound with a band of loyal fighters.
The French embassy and Ouattara representatives in New York say it was Ouattara fighters who detained the incumbent president.
A spokesman for the pro-Ouattara forces, Seydou Ouattara, told VOA that Mr. Gbagbo was taken to Mr. Ouattara’s headquarters at the Golf Hotel. He also said operations are underway to find key Gbagbo supporters such as youth leader Charles Ble Goude.
Mr. Ouattara’s television station showed images of a tired-looking Mr. Gbagbo in a hotel room, wearing a white T-shirt and surrounded by several people.
Mr. Ouattara’s ambassador to the U.N. told reporters Monday that Mr. Gbagbo is alive, well, and will be brought to justice.
Human Rights Watch has accused Gbagbo forces of killing hundreds of civilians during the four-month power struggle that culminated in Monday’s fighting. The group has also accused pro-Ouattara forces of killing and raping civilians, and said Mr. Ouattara should open an impartial probe into the violence once he assumes power.
Monday’s capture came after new airstrikes by French and U.N. helicopters. French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the airstrikes were aimed at Gbagbo forces’ heavy weapons, after civilians and U.N. personnel continued to be the targets of attacks.
Mr. Sarkozy called the humanitarian situation in several Abidjan neighborhoods “alarming.” The city has endured several months of fighting since the election dispute began in early December.
The U.N. said the conflict displaced some 1 million Ivorians, with more than 100,000 fleeing to neighboring Liberia. voa