Africa

Ivory Coast renegade warlord Ibrahim Coulibaly killed

Ibrahim Coulibaly (file image from 19 April 2011)
Image caption Mr Coulibaly and his men had refused to obey an order to disarm

One of Ivory Coast's best-known militia leaders has been killed by the forces of new President Alassane Ouattara.

The leader of the so-called Invisible Commandos, Ibrahim Coulibaly, was killed in an offensive on Wednesday, a defence ministry spokesman said.

Mr Coulibaly's forces had helped Mr Ouattara gain control of parts of Abidjan during the recent crisis but the pair had since fallen out.

He has been involved in several coup attempts over the past decade.

He played a key role in the 2002 uprising which split the country until Mr Ouattara's forces toppled former President Laurent Gbagbo two weeks ago.

Mr Coulibaly, 47 and widely known as "IB", had served as Mr Ouattara's personal bodyguard.

But he has been reluctant to disarm his fighters, as he was said to be seeking recognition of the role they played in ousting Mr Gbagbo, who refused to accept defeat in last year's election.

The BBC's John James in the main city, Abidjan, says Mr Coulibaly's death eliminates a potential cause of instability for the new government.

But our correspondent says the internal fighting among the coalition of former warlords that brought President Ouattara to power and over which he has limited control remains a worrying sign.

Thousands of people have queued up in Abidjan, as commercial banks have opened on Thursday for the first time since February.

Our correspondent says this is one of the most important steps as the new government tries to restore normality to the world's biggest cocoa producer, which used to enjoy the highest living standards in West Africa.

Feud

Defence ministry spokesman Capt Leon Alla Kouakou told the AFP news agency that Mr Coulibaly had taken a family hostage after Mr Ouattara's forces tried to disarm his men.

The FRCI [Republican Forces of Ivory Coast] fired two warning shots and he responded with heavy fire. The FRCI had no other choice but to respond and the response was fatal for him," he said.

Two government troops and six fighters loyal to Mr Coulibaly were also killed during the raid, which took place in Abidjan's poor PK18 area of Abobo district.

His fighters had begun battling the troops of Mr Gbagbo in February, after they had fired mortar shells and rockets into the pro-Ouattara neighbourhood of Abobo.

The FRCI entered Abidjan on 30 March.

Mr Coulibaly has had a long feud with Prime Minister Guillaume Soro, who led the FRCI for many years in their northern strongholds.

An investigation has been opened into alleged human rights abuses committed by Mr Gbagbo and his forces during the four-month standoff.

The former president and his wife Simone have been put under house arrest in separate towns in the north of the country.

Thousands are believed to have been killed and wounded during the recent crisis.

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