Gbagbo weapons stockpiles discovered near Abidjan
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Amid tensions following the arrest of incumbent Ivorian leader Laurent Gbagbo, French and UN forces have uncovered large weapons and ammunition stockpiles in an affluent suburb of the country’s economic capital, Abidjan.
Large weapons stockpiles destined to be used by forces loyal to Ivory Coast’s incumbent leader were uncovered by French and UN forces on Tuesday in the economic capital, Abidjan, after his arrest a day earlier.
The weapons − including mortars, cannons and boxes of small-arms ammunition − were handed over to UN soldiers in Ivory Coast.
The munitions, stored in villas in the affluent Cocody suburb, were to be used by supporters of incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo to continue resisting forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognised winner of November’s presidential run-off.
Gbagbo disputed the election results and refused to yield to his rival. After a protracted siege at Gbagbo’s presidential residence, French forces joined the fight that eventually led to Gbagbo’s arrest on Monday.
On the same day, five Gbagbo generals pledged their allegiance to Ouattara.
Meanwhile, Ouattara's government announced late on Tuesday that Gbagbo had been placed under house arrest, without specifying where he was being held.
"Pending the opening of a judicial inquiry, Mr. Laurent Gbagbo and some of his companions have been placed under house arrest," Justice Minister Jeannot Ahoussou-Kouadio said in a statement.
Gbagbo's arrest ended a four-month-long power struggle that had descended into an open conflict, with more than 1,000 killed and more than a million left homeless.
Atrocities and reprisals
Overnight on Tuesday, sporadic gunfire could be heard across Abidjan, while armed fighters patrolled the streets as Outtara called for calm.
However, human rights group Amnesty International said in a statement on Tuesday that, despite Ouattara's appeals, people thought to be Gbagbo supporters were at risk of violent reprisals.
"Today in Abidjan, armed men, some wearing military uniforms, have been conducting house-to-house searches in neighbourhoods where real or perceived supporters of Laurent Gbagbo are living, including Yopougon and Koumassi," the rights organisation said.
Keeping the peace is proving to be a significant challenge for Ouattara, whose support base is concentrated in the mainly Muslim north of the country.
In the offensive leading up to the attack on Abidjan, his forces were accused of massacring hundreds in the western town of Duekoue, although rights groups say both sides have been involved in atrocities in the ethnically divided country.