Africa

Ivory Coast: 'Ouattara must stop reprisal attacks'

An injured supporter of Ivory Coast's former President Laurent Gbagbo at the Hotel Golf in Abidjan on 11 April 2011
Image caption Some of Laurent Gbagbo's supporters were badly roughly up during his capture on Monday

Ivory Coast's new President Alassane Ouattara must put a stop to reprisal attacks against followers of his rival, Amnesty International has said.

The UK-based rights group said armed men in uniforms were conducting house-to-house searches in Abidjan looking for Laurent Gbagbo's supporters.

Many people in the west of the country had also fled to hide in the bush after villages had been burned, it said.

Mr Ouattara's men captured Mr Gbagbo on Monday after he failed to stand down.

He had insisted that he won November's presidential election, even though the UN peacekeeping mission in the country overseeing the poll said Mr Ouattara had won.

During the four-month stand-off between Mr Gbagbo and Mr Ouattara about 1,500 people were killed and a million forced from their homes.

'Democratic duty'

In Paris, President Nicolas Sarkozy has defended the French role in the capture of Mr Gbagbo, which has been controversial in Ivory Coast, as Mr Gbagbo's supporters accuse Mr Ouattara of working for the former colonial power.

"He stressed the fact that France had done its duty for democracy and peace in Ivory Coast, a country with which we have deep historical links," said government spokesman Francois Baroin, after Mr Sarkozy had held a cabinet meeting.

France has denied reports that its forces had arrested Mr Gbagbo but they were involved in the operation to oust him from his official residence after a week-long siege.

Amnesty International said because of the "climate of fear", people displaced by the unrest are too scared to return home.

"We are very worried there will be a cycle of retaliation," Amnesty research Salvator Sagues told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

One witness told the group he had seen a policeman belonging to Mr Gbagbo's ethnic group being dragged from his house in Abidjan on Tuesday and shot at point blank range.

Mr Sagues said that people were still trapped in an overcrowded Catholic Mission in the western city of Duekoue, 600km (370 miles) west of Abidjan, where conditions were appalling

"At the Catholic Mission we have 27,000 people who are living in a camp out of fear of being attacked by people loyal to Alassane Ouattara - this has to be stopped immediately," Mr Sagues.

When pro-Ouattara forces started moving south from their northern bases last month, up to 40,000 people sought refuge at the mission.

Image caption Several generals pledged their allegiance to Alassane Ouattara (r) on Tuesday

The UN has confirmed the deaths of at least 536 people in this area, although it is not clear who carried out the killings.

"Alassane Ouattara has to arrest the people responsible for these things and he also to remind all his soldiers that they will be accountable for these things," Mr Sagues said.

Only justice and protection from UN peacekeeping troops, especially for people in the west, could bring an end stop the fear, he said.

Tensions have been exacerbated by news that Mr Gbagbo's Interior Minister, Desire Tagro, has died.

The BBC's John James in Ivory Coast says there are differing accounts as to whether he was beaten to death, assassinated or committed suicide.

Weapons found

Amnesty International also called for Mr Gbagbo and his family to be treated impartially before the law.

Immediately after his arrest, Mr Gbagbo and his wife Simone were taken to Mr Ouattara's headquarters at Abidjan's Golf Hotel.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionDavid Peppiatt from the British Red Cross said there was "real concern" over food and medical supplies

Photos taken after their capture show pro-Ouattara fighters grabbing the former first lady's hair.

Mr Ouattara has promised that Mr Gbagbo will not be harmed and would be "treated with dignity".

There had been confusion about Mr Gbagbo's whereabouts, with the UN retracting an earlier claim that he had been moved out of Abidjan.

Mr Ouattara's government said he had been placed under house arrest, without saying where, AFP news agency reported

Mr Gbagbo's spokesman says generals who had been fighting on his behalf have now sworn allegiance to Mr Ouattara.

But some reports say some of his soldiers have refused to give up their weapons.

Meanwhile, French troops have discovered several large arms caches they said would have been used by Mr Gbagbo.

The BBC's Mark Doyle says the French army took journalists to three innocent-looking villas in central Abidjan where they had discovered the weapons.

He says there were enough arms there to launch a new war, more evidence that the dispute over last year's polls were leading the country into chaos.

The French troops documented the arms before handing them over to African UN soldiers for safe disposal.

Until a 2002 rebellion split the country in two, Ivory Coast - the world's largest cocoa producer - was the most developed economy in West Africa.

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