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Ivory Coast investigates ministers in blood crimes
The shooting appeared to be between pro-Gbagbo militia and forces that fought for democratically elected President.
Abidjan: Shooting erupted on Saturday in a sprawling Abidjan neighborhood where fighters loyal to Ivory Coast's arrested strongman Laurent Gbagbo have sought refuge, residents of the area said.
The shooting appeared to be between residual forces of a pro-Gbagbo militia and forces that fought to install democratically elected President Alassane Ouattara, said two residents of Yopougon suburb that includes several ghettos of shacks as well as middle-class homes. The residents spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
The rest of Ivory Coast's commercial capital has been largely calm for two days, with some people venturing out of their homes on Saturday for the first time in two weeks. But Yopougon residents say they have been assailed by forces loyal to Ouattara, who on Wednesday went house to house searching for former soldiers, whom they shot and killed. On Thursday, residents said the pro-Ouattara forces were shooting into the air to frighten people into fleeing, and then pillaging their homes and shops.
Abidjan had been a city under siege as pro-Gbagbo forces took a last stand and turned heavy weapons on civilians in their fight to keep in power the man who has governed since 2000, delayed elections for five years and then refused to accept his defeat in November balloting. Thousands of people have been killed and wounded, the International Federation of the Red Cross has said.
On Saturday, residents of Adjame neighborhood burned bodies and trash in a cleanup effort.
An AP photographer saw two burning bodies and residents said there were other bodies in a huge pile of flaming trash.
"There are too many bodies to count," one resident said, when asked how many bodies had been burned.
Some said it was the first time they were venturing out in two weeks.
Scores of women in the Treichville neighborhood came out wearing white T-shirts bearing images of Ouattara and his French wife, Dominique. They carried sachets of drinking water, boiled eggs and fried rice, which they offered to pro-Ouattara forces who had taken over the headquarters of Gbagbo's feared Republican Guard.
"We've come out to show our joy. They have liberated us. Until this week, you couldn't come within 100 meters of that building without being shot at," said Mariam Anne-Marie Sylla, gesturing at the headquarters.
The women staged a celebratory march through the streets of the neighborhood, shouting Ouattara's nickname and saying "he is our president and he is the solution," to Ivory Coast's crisis.
Pro-Ouattara fighters captured Gbagbo on Monday after U.N. and French forces bombed the presidential residence where he had taken refuge in a fortified underground bunker.
Meanwhile, state radio reported that Gbagbo's interior minister, Desire Tagro, died on Tuesday after being badly beaten by fighters who captured him Monday along with Gbagbo.
Ouattara has said that Gbagbo's safety is assured and that he wants the former strongman tried by both national and international courts for his alleged crimes. The International Criminal Court in The Hague has said it is conducting a preliminary examination into crimes perpetrated by all sides in the conflict in this West African nation.
Gbagbo has been taken to an undisclosed location in northern Ivory Coast, for his own safety, according to a Cabinet minister who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to discuss the subject.
Friday night state television broadcast video of the capture earlier in the day of Gen. Brunot Dogbo Ble, head of the Republican Guard that stood beside Gbagbo and fought fiercely in Abidjan, the seat of government.
Saturday's fighting broke out as officials in Ivory Coast are drawing up a list of ministers, generals and journalists to be charged with blood crimes, corruption and hate speech, the justice minister responsible for human rights told The Associated Press.
Top of the list is Charles Ble Goude, youth minister in Gbagbo's disgraced government, who organized a violent anti-French and anti-U.N. gang that has terrorized foreigners and ordinary civilians.
On Friday, a government spokesman said Ble Goude had been arrested. But Justice Minister Jeannot Ahoussou said that was a case of mistaken identity.
Ble Goude is known as the "street general" for organizing the violent gang that terrorized Ivory Coast's foreign population between 2004 and 2005. More recently he incited his Young Patriots, a militia-like gang of thugs, to attack foreigners as well as Ouattara's supporters.
"We are investigating every member of the Cabinet of Mr. Gbagbo for blood crimes, money crimes, buying guns and other arms," Ahoussou told the AP in a telephone interview.
He said he also was investigating journalists who broadcast hate speech. Gbagbo had turned the state Radio Television Ivoirienne into a propaganda organ that broadcast statements inciting violence against tribes loyal to Ouattara.
Former rebel forces that fought to install Ouattara also are accused of atrocities, including the slaughter of hundreds of civilians in western Ivory Coast, a stronghold of Gbagbo's Bete tribe and allied Guere people.
The telephone line broke as a journalist was asking the minister whether he also would be investigating pro-Ouattara forces that perpetrated crimes. Telephone communications are poor throughout the country including in Abidjan.
State television on Friday night also broadcast an appeal by French Ambassador Jean-Marc Simon for witnesses to come forward in the April 4 kidnappings of two Frenchmen, a Malaysian and a citizen of Benin from the downtown Hotel Novotel. They were seized by pro-Gbagbo troops.
Simon asked for anyone with knowledge of their whereabouts or where they might have been taken to let him know.
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