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I. Coast launches probe against Gbagbo

ABIDJAN, Apr 27 – Ivory Coast\’s new government said Tuesday it had launched a preliminary investigation against ousted strongman Laurent Gbagbo for "crimes and offences" committed by his regime.

"Preliminary investigations are under way over the crimes and offences committed by Laurent Gbagbo and his associates," government spokesman Patrick Achi said.

Gbagbo was arrested by forces loyal to new President Alassane Ouattara on April 11, ending nearly five months of a bitter post-election crisis sparked by his refusal to relinquish power despite being deemed to have lost to Ouattara in November elections.

Gbagbo, his wife Simone and more than 120 people were arrested at the presidential residence in the main city Abidjan. The former president and his wife have been put under house arrest in separate towns in northern Ivory Coast.

Achi said some 60 other people close to Gbagbo arrested on the same day had also been put under house arrest. The others have since been freed.

Ouattara\’s government has embarked on steering the crisis-hit west African country, the world\’s top cocoa producer, back to normalcy but still faces resistance from pro-Gbagbo fighters who have refused to disarm.

Another armed group of former coup leader Ibrahim Coulibaly, who identifies himself as a "general", said on Tuesday it was considering a call by Ouattara for his militia to lay down arms.

"The general has told his men to lay down their weapons. The fighters have received the information. We will see what next," Coulibaly\’s spokesman Felix Anoble said.

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Coulibaly\’s forces, known as the "invisible commandos", are positioned in Abidjan\’s northern Abobo district. Coulibaly has urged the new government to acknowledge his forces\’ role in ejecting pro-Gbagbo forces from Abobo earlier this year.

Coulibaly has been seeking audience with Ouattara, but has been told to disarm before he can meet the new president.


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