Gbagbo, wife in Ouattara’s custody in Ivory Coast: U.N.

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Ivory Coast’s Laurent Gbagbo and his wife Simone are in the custody of Alassane Ouattara at the Golf Hotel in Abidjan and have requested U.N. protection, the U.N. peacekeeping chief said on Monday.

Gbagbo refused to step down when Ouattara won last November’s presidential election, according to results certified by the United Nations, reigniting a civil war that has claimed more than 1,000 lives and uprooted a million people.

“I can confirm that former President Gbagbo and his wife are presently in the Golf Hotel under the custody of Mr. Ouattara’s forces,” the head of U.N. peacekeeping, Alain Le Roy, told reporters after addressing the U.N. Security Council behind closed doors.

He added that the U.N. peacekeeping force in the country, known as UNOCI, had accepted a request from Gbagbo to ensure his and his wife’s security.

Le Roy said there was still fighting in Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa exporter, as there remained “pockets of resistance.” However, he hoped that resistance would soon end.

“The chief of Gbagbo forces … called us to say that he wants to surrender the weapons,” he said. “I hope that is going on while I speak.”

“The crisis is not over at all,” Le Roy said. “There is still a huge humanitarian crisis.”

Le Roy referred to a report by the New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch, which said both Ouattara’s and Gbagbo’s forces had been guilty of unjustifiable attacks against civilians. He said that report was “very worrying.”

Ouattara’s U.N. envoy Youssoufou Bamba on Saturday rejected allegations that Ouattara’s forces raped and killed civilians suspected of supporting Gbagbo but said the new Ivorian government would support an investigation of any allegations raised.

(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; editing by Mohammad Zargham)

Gbagbo, wife in Ouattara’s custody in Ivory Coast: U.N.