Gbagbo allies blamed for strike on French troops
PARIS, Dec 14 (AFP) - The former commander of French forces in Ivory Coast has implicated senior allies of President Laurent Gbagbo in a deadly air strike on French forces in the country last year, a French official said on Wednesday.
General Henri Poncet, who is separately being probed over the killing of an Ivorian man in French military custody, told an investigating magistrate last week that two Gbagbo allies may have ordered the bombing, the official said.
They are Bertin Kadet, Gbagbo’s special advisor on defence and security, and Colonel Edouard Seka Yapo, former chief of the Ivory Coast air force, according to the official, who is close to the investigation.
These men, the official said, are “two key people” in Gbagbo’s regime.
The exact nature of Poncet’s allegations were not spelled out, but in Abidjan Kadet on Wednesday denied any part in the attack, which was carried out by two Sukhoi 25 planes flown by east Europeans, and challenged Poncet to prove it.
The attack on a French military base in the central rebel-held town of Bouake, on November 6, 2004, left nine French soldiers dead.
“He shouldn’t wrongly accuse people any old way,” Kadet told AFP. “I challenge Poncet to prove before French justice that I, Bertin Kadet, could have ordered the bombing of a French military base” and said there would be no interest in doing it.
In retaliation for the raid, France destroyed the Sukhoi fighter-bombers and targeted helicopters in an attack to wipe out the whole strike capacity of the west African country’s small air force.
This provoked a wave of serious anti-French riots led by Gbagbo partisans in the main city Abidjan.
French prosecutors separately announced on Wednesday the opening of an investigation into complaints filed by 20 French nationals repatriated during the violence.
Ivory Coast, once one of Africa’s most prosperous states, has been divided into a rebel-held north and government controlled south since a failed coup in September 2002.
France has deployed a 4,000-strong peacekeeping force to the country, which was under Poncet’s command until June this year.
Subject: French news