Following Ivorian strongman Laurent Gbagbo's arrest on Monday, the whereabouts of his key henchman, Charles Blé Goudé, were unclear following reports – later retracted – that he had been arrested.
The notorious leader of the Young Patriots militia, a hardline group of young Gbagbo supporters, Blé Goudé is also known as Gbagbo’s “Street General”.
Patrick Achi, a spokesman for Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, told AFP on Friday that Blé Goudé had been arrested a day earlier and was under house arrest. The news of his arrest was seen as a prize catch for the Ouattara administration following a violent, four-month-long post-election crisis that finally ended with Gbagbo’s detention on Monday.
But speaking to FRANCE 24 correspondents in the main Ivorian city of Abidjan later Friday, Affoussy Bamba, a spokeswoman for Ouattara, said the news of Blé Goudé’s arrest could not be confirmed.
Toussaint Alain, a spokesman for Gbagbo in Paris, told Reuters on Friday that Blé Goudé had been arrested by UN forces, handed over to Ouattara forces and tortured.
A threat to Ouattara’s leadership?
A former student leader, Blé Goudé has been on a list of people targeted by a UN asset freeze and travel sanctions for his role in inciting violence and terrorising the foreign population in Ivory Coast during the 2004-2005 civil war.
Following the November 28, 2010, presidential election, which Gbagbo refused to concede, Gbagbo named Blé Goudé as his youth minister.
For the Ouattara administration, Blé Goudé represents a major threat to the security and stability of the deeply divided, war-torn West African nation.
During the dying days of the Gbagbo regime, as forces loyal to the country’s competing presidents clashed in and outside of Abidjan, many members of Blé Goudé’s Young Patriots were armed and primed to fight Ouattara forces.