Ivorian ex-leader assassinated

2002-09-21 10:20

Paris - Ivory Coast's former military ruler General Robert Guei, accused of being behind this week's attempted coup in the west African nation, was assassinated by soldiers and had nothing to do with the uprising, sources in his camp said on Friday.

Contacted by telephone from Paris, the sources, including the mother of his aide de camp Captain Fabien Coulibaly, said the general and Coulibaly were shot and killed, along with his bodyguards, at his residence shortly after 11:00 on Thursday by soldiers who surrounded his home.

"Then Guei's bodyguards were undressed and their corpses were taken and abandoned in various places about town," Coulibaly's mother said.

Guei's body was found near a hospital in the city's wealthiest suburb of Cocody, and Coulibaly's in the poorer neighbourhood of Attiecoube.

Coulibaly's mother said she had last spoken to her son at the residence by telephone minutes before his death.

She said he had told her that he was preparing to state on national radio that Guei had nothing to do with the coup attempt.

"They were not implicated in this coup d'etat, from near or far. They had nothing to do with it," she said. "It was an assassination."

Coulibaly, who was contacted by foreign correspondents hours before his death had denied any involvement by Guei.

Another figure who claimed to be close to the late general - who in 1999 led Ivory Coast's first military coup since independence from France in 1960 - also said Guei, his wife, bodyguards and servants were killed at Guei's residence.

"He was having breakfast when he received a call from an assistant warning him of imminent danger," said the source who requested anonymity.

"Then, 10 minutes later, he received another call advising him to get out as quickly as possible. But it was too late: his home was already surrounded."

State television broadcast footage of Guei's corpse on Thursday night, hours after the unsuccessful coup attempt was launched, showing a bullet wound in his right temple.

Guei seized power in December 1999 and reluctantly stepped aside in October 2000. - Sapa-AFP