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Côte d’Ivoire: FBI Arms Deal Suspect is Ivorian Colonel

Posted by Admin on Sep 20th, 2010 and filed under Afrique. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

A Côte d’Ivoire man arrested by the FBI in New York last week while attempting to buy weapons has turned out to be an army colonel who was there on state business. Côte d’Ivoire’s armed forces say Yao N’guessan is a colonel in the army and that the arms deal was official state business.

The FBI says that N’guessan was engaged in a deal worth more than 3.8 million dollars for 4,000 handguns, 200,000 rounds of ammunition and 50,000 tear gas grenades, and was arrested only after the purchase money had already been transferred to the United States.

Former minister of defence, Bertin Kadet, told reporters in Abidjan that the state lacks sufficient armaments to keep control if mass violence breaks out around elections slated for the end of October. Colonel N’guessan was dispatched to the US to purchase crowd control items in order to prevent any sort of bloodbath, he said.

But that’s not what the opposition is saying. They accuse President Laurent Gbagbo‘s party of preparing to stay in power by force.

It is a theory lent credibility by Gbagbo’s own words these last weeks. He has said repeatedly that security forces must be ready to suppress anyone wishing to derail these elections, by force if necessary.

An UN arms embargo has been imposed on Côte d’Ivoire since 2004, though the peacekeeping mission here requested in August that it be lifted to allow the national police to purchase crowd control equipment and non-lethal weapons.

Marco Chown Oved| 20 September 2010| RFI|

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