Ivory Coast conflict: Gbagbo ally jailed over Novotel hotel murders

image source, AFP
image captionGen Dogbo Ble was a key figure in the civil conflict

The head of the presidential guard under Ivory Coast's ex-leader Laurent Gbagbo has been sentenced to 18 years in prison over killings during the country's civil conflict in 2011.

Gen Bruno Dogbo Ble was convicted at the murder trial for four foreign businessmen, who were abducted from a top hotel in the main city of Abidjan.

Only one body was ever found, dumped in a lagoon in the city.

Some 3,000 people died in the conflict that followed elections in 2010.

The BBC's Tamasin Ford in Abidjan says there are still many unanswered questions about the case which was long shrouded in doubt and mystery.

A unit of the elite presidential guard was found to have stormed the Novotel Hotel in Abidjan's financial district on 4 April, 2011, as fighting raged for control of the commercial capital.

They abducted the French hotel manager along with the French head of Sifca, the country's biggest agro-industrial group, his Beninoise assistant and a Malaysian colleague.

The prosecution said that the victims were taken to the presidential palace, where they were tortured and killed.

image source, AFP
image captionThe Novotel is one of the country's top hotels

After a 10-month trial in Abidjan, five others were also jailed for their role in the killing, including the country's former police chief.

But it remains unclear why they were killed and on whose orders.

Violence broke out when then President Gbagbo, now on trial at the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, refused to accept defeat to President Alassane Ouattara.

President Ouattara has been criticised for only prosecuting his opponents following the country's civil conflict, despite both sides being accused of atrocities.

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