Ivory Coast: Coup plot by military exiles foiled
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) — Authorities say they have foiled a coup plot led by military exiles loyal to the country's former president, airing a video that allegedly was going to be broadcast on national television after the takeover.
The announcement comes just over a year after President Alassane Ouattara took office following a months-long political crisis that left an estimated 3,000 people dead. The former president who refused to concede defeat, Laurent Gbagbo, is now facing war crimes charges at the Hague.
In the video aired late Tuesday on national television, a man in military uniform accuses Ivorian authorities of being responsible for massacres and putting "victor's justice" into place. In a statement, the colonel also criticizes Gbagbo's extradition.
Authorities identified the man in the video as Kate Gnatoa, and said that he had been arrested along with several others.
Ivorian Interior Minister Hamed Bakayoko said all borders would be closed and a curfew put in place, and that political activities would be suspended.
"We have precise indication that a group of officers in exile in Accra (Ghana) planned a military operation in Ivory Coast ... with the objective of destabilization," he said.
Last week, authorities in the West African nation of Togo said they had arrested Gbagbo's former defense minister, Moise Lida Kouassi, who was living there in exile. Togolese police have accused Kouassi of being "involved in subversive activities meant to destabilize the present Ivorian government of President Alassane Ouattara."
Kouassi's lawyer, Joseph Kokou Koffigoh, though, said his client is not a danger to Ivory Coast and criticized his extradition.
Ivory Coast was brought to the brink of civil war when Gbagbo refused to cede power after the November 2010 election. Gbagbo was arrested with the help of U.N. and French forces in April 2011.
While more than 100 Gbagbo supporters subsequently have been charged with postelection crimes in Ivory Coast, fewer from Ouattara's side have been charged, though the U.N. and human rights groups say both sides carried out killings and rape.
During the political standoff, Gbagbo's forces and pro-Gbagbo militia groups used heavy artillery, tanks, grenades and tear gas against civilians perceived to be Ouattara supporters. Ouattara enlisted the help of the former northern rebels, who began a violent takeover of towns on their push south to Abidjan.
Western Ivory Coast has remained particularly unstable following Gbagbo's arrest, and an ambush last week left seven peacekeepers dead along with at least nine others in an unprecedented attack on U.N. operations in the country.
Burke reported from Accra, Ghana. Associated Press writer Ebow Godwin in Lome, Togo also contributed to this report.