Ivory Coast’s incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo was arrested on Monday at his Abidjan residence, a spokesman for his rival Alassane Ouattara confirmed.
“I confirm that Mr. Gbagbo is here (Golf Hotel) with his family and some of his collaborators,” Patrick Achi told DPA.
The Golf Hotel in the economic capital Abidjan is where Mr. Ouattara has based himself since Mr. Gbagbo refused to step down following disputed elections in November.
French tanks were earlier seen approaching the residence where Mr. Gbagbo has been holed up for almost a week, and Mr. Achi confirmed that French forces, backed by pro-Ouattara troops, had taken the leader.
However, France — Ivory Coast’s former colonial master — said that Mr. Ouattara’s forces had carried out the arrest.
A DPA correspondent in Abidjan said cheers were ringing out around the city as news broke of Mr. Gbagbo’s arrest, which ends a four-month crisis that claimed the lives of over a thousand people.
Earlier in the day, 11 French tanks, accompanied by four low-flying MI-24 helicopters and pick-ups full of forces loyal to Mr. Ouattara were seen rolling toward Mr. Gbagbo’s residence.
French trucks also took up positions around the district of Cocody, one of the few still controlled by Mr. Gbagbo, to prevent his militia from advancing, the DPA correspondent said.
Mr. Gbagbo had been holed up in his presidential compound for almost a week, protected by the remnants of his forces.
On Sunday, French and U.N. helicopters opened fire on Mr. Gbagbo’s residence. The attack was carried out in response to Mr. Gbagbo loyalists firing on the Golf Hotel, the U.N. said.
The hotel, which also houses U.N. offices, came under fire on Saturday afternoon by troops with heavy weaponry from the area of Mr. Gbagbo’s bunker.
Mr. Outtara is internationally recognized as having won presidential elections at the end of last year, but Mr. Gbagbo had refused to step down, sparking months of bloodshed.
Serious military action by the rebel forces backing Mr. Ouattara only got going in recent weeks after mediation efforts and sanctions failed to budge Mr. Gbagbo.
The Republican Forces of Cote D’Ivoire (FRCI), comprised of northern rebels, New Forces and other armed groups, easily overran Yamoussoukro, the nation’s political capital, and the city of San Pedro, the world’s largest cocoa-exporting port on the way to Abidjan.
More than 1,000 people, many of them civilians, are said to have been killed during the conflict, including hundreds killed in a massacre suspected of being carried out by pro-Ouattara forces in Duekoue, western Ivory Coast.
Human rights violation
Human Rights Watch said there had been widespread abuses by Mr. Ouattara’s forces.
“Killing and raping civilians is no way for Ouattara’s forces to end this conflict,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Ouattara should fulfill his public pledge to investigate and prosecute abuses by both sides if Cd’Ivoire is to emerge from this horrific period.” The November poll was supposed to consign to history the ghost of the civil war that broke out in 2002 and divided the country into the rebel, mainly Muslim north and Christian south.