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Ivory Coast's Gbagbo in rival's custody

Forces loyal to Ivory Coast President-elect Alassane Ouattara had in custody Laurent Gbagbo (pictured), who refused to cede power after elections, the United Nations said. (UPI Photo/Monika Graff)
Forces loyal to Ivory Coast President-elect Alassane Ouattara had in custody Laurent Gbagbo (pictured), who refused to cede power after elections, the United Nations said. (UPI Photo/Monika Graff) | License Photo

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, April 11 (UPI) -- Forces loyal to Ivory Coast President-elect Alassane Ouattara had in custody Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to cede power after elections, the United Nations said.

"The [U.N. operation in Ivory Coast] is providing protection and security in accordance with its Security Council mandate," a spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Monday in a release in which Gbagbo's surrender was confirmed.

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Gbagbo "has been arrested," said Youssoufou Bamba, Ouattara's U.N. envoy.

"He is alive" and will be "brought to justice," he told The Washington Post.

Initial reports indicated French troops captured Gbagbo and turned him over to Ouattara's forces. But Bamba later said the arrest operation was carried out by pro-Ouattara troops.

"I am clear about that," he said. "That's the republic forces of Ivory Coast who have conducted the operation. Gbagbo is arrested. He is under our custody. ... Right now, he is being brought to a safe location for the next course of action."

Cmdr. Frederic Daguillon, a French military spokesman in Abidjan, confirmed Gbagbo's capture, also denying reports the French military was involved in seizing him, The New York Times reported.

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Ivory Coast has been wracked by deadly violence since November, when Gbagbo refused to step down from power, despite losing a U.N.-certified and internationally recognized presidential election to Ouattara. Rights groups accused both sides of committing atrocities.

On Sunday, U.N. and French helicopter gunships began a new offensive in Abidjan that military officials said was meant to destroy heavy weapons near Gbagbo's residence, the BBC reported. There was another round of attacks Monday.

French helicopter strikes damaged Gbagbo's residence, one of his ministers said. Gbagbo had been surrounded in his residence for days by pro-Ouattara troops.

The strikes on Gbagbo's residence Monday came a day after a hotel Ouattara used as his headquarters came under fire.

U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed the outcome as "a victory for the democratic will of the Ivoirian people, who have suffered for far too long through the instability that followed their election."

"Today, the people of Cote d'Ivoire [Ivory Coast] have the chance to begin to reclaim their country, solidify their democracy, and rebuild a vibrant economy that taps the extraordinary potential of the Ivoirian people," Obama said in a statement released by the White House.

"For President Ouattara and the people of Cote d'Ivoire, the hard work of reconciliation and rebuilding must begin now. President Ouattara will need to govern on behalf of all the people of Cote d'Ivoire, including those who did not vote for him. All militia groups should lay down their weapons and recognize an inclusive military that protects all citizens under the authority of President Ouattara."

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Obama commended U.N. and French forces for protecting civilians, and said victims and survivors of violence in Ivory Coast "deserve accountability for the violence and crimes that have been committed against them."

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