Côte d'Ivoire court issues warrants for French officers

A military court in Côte d’Ivoire has issued international arrest warrants for two top French military officers, including the former commander of French peacekeepers, legal sources said on Thursday.

The arrest warrants were issued after an inquiry by Côte d’Ivoire’s army into an incident when clashes broke out in the commercial capital Abidjan between a French contingent and Ivorian demonstrators, several of whom were killed, on November 9, 2004.

The warrants are for the then commander of the French peacekeeping force in Côte d’Ivoire, General Henri Poncet, who has since been replaced, and Colonel Patrick Destremau, two legal sources said, both asking not to be named.

On that day in 2004, Destremau was in command of French troops outside the Hotel Ivoire in Abidjan, where thousands of demonstrators had gathered while the French authorities were using the premises as an evacuation base for French nationals during unrest.

Several French soldiers, including Poncet, are already under investigation in France over the death of an Ivorian man in French military custody last May.

Poncet, who was relieved of his functions and officially reprimanded over a suspected cover-up of the incident, is being probed as a possible accessory to murder.

He was recently dragged deeper into the scandal when another officer being investigated in the case accused him of implicitly ordering the killing of Firmin Mahe, described by the French military as a dangerous bandit. - AFP

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