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Pro-Ouattara militia leader killed by president's forces

By Eric Agnero, For CNN
  • Violence broke out in Ivory Coast after disputed presidential elections last year
  • Alassane Ouattara was declared the winner, but incumbent Laurent Gbagbo refused to leave
  • Coulibaly was involved in a 1999 coup d'etat in Ivory Coast

Abidjan, Ivory Coast (CNN) -- Forces loyal to newly installed President Alassane Ouattara have killed a warlord who helped Ouattara win office, a defense ministry spokesman said Thursday.

Capt. Leon Alla Kouakou said Ibrahim Coulibaly was killed Wednesday in a pro-Ouattara neighborhood in Abidjan after he refused to disarm and join the new army, as the president had ordered. Kouakou's comments were broadcast on the state-run television station TCI.

Since the capture of former President Laurent Gbagbo, militia leaders who pledged their support to Ouattara in the military phase of the post-electoral crisis have been fighting among themselves. Violence broke out in the West African country following November's presidential elections, after official results showed Ouattara had won but Gbagbo refused to cede power. As many as 1 million residents fled Abidjan and hundreds were killed, international aid and human rights groups said.

Coulibaly was the leader of the "invisible commando" -- a militia that played an important role in ousting the Gbagbo regime. But he had a longstanding rivalry with current Defense and Prime Minister Guillaume Soro, stemming from their collaboration in a 2002 rebellion that divided the country.

Last week, Ouattara ordered all militias who still had arms to lay down their weapons or be disarmed by force. Coulibaly said earlier this week he was ready to disarm his 5,000 men and requested a meeting with Ouattara, whom he said he considers as a father figure.

Meanwhile, Coulibaly's spokesman, Ben Rasoul, accused Soro of plotting to kill the rebel leader.

Coulibaly, a former bodyguard to Ouattara's wife, was also one of the masterminds of the first coup d'etat in Ivory Coast in 1999, before teaming with Soro in 2002 to foment the rebellion that held the north of Ivory Coast until the presidential election.

Two weeks after Gbagbo's capture, Ouattara is still dealing with the last pocket of resistance in the Abidjan suburb Yopougon, where pro-Gbagbo militias have turned down a call from Ouattara to disarm. Fighting was still taking place Thursday, according to resident Souki Kabassele. Yopougon is largely a pro-Gbagbo neighborhood.

There were some signs that normal life was returning to Abidjan -- several banks reopened Thursday, and Ouattara visited the presidential palace, where he'll eventually work, for the first time since winning the election.