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ICoast ex-leader Gbagbo's aide Goude arrested: sources

Charles Ble Goude speaks on June 25, 2012 somewhere close to the Togo-Benin border
Charles Ble Goude speaks on June 25, 2012 during his first meeting with a journalist since leaving Ivory Coast, somewhere close to the Togo-Benin border. Police in Ghana have arrested ex-Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo's right-hand man Goude, who has bee

Police in Ghana have arrested ex-Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo's right-hand man Charles Ble Goude, who has been living in exile for 18 months evading authorities, sources said Thursday.

"He was arrested this morning at his home in Accra by plainclothes police," Lia Bi Douayoua, a spokeswoman for pro-Gbagbo exiles living in Ghana, told AFP by telephone from Abidjan, adding that Goude was "now in the hands of Ghana's police."

A source close to the Ivory Coast government also confirmed the arrest.

Goude, formerly youth minister under Gbagbo, was detained and cuffed by "four Ghanian and four Ivorian police" and taken away in a 4x4 vehicle, according to a member of Goude's entourage.

"This time we have got lucky, he is here," one of the police was heard to say.

Richard Kodjo, spokesman for Gbagbo's Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), said the party was trying to establish the charges on which Goude was arrested.

Nicknamed "The Street Minister" for his ability to mobilise protestors, Goude is the subject of an Ivorian arrest warrant for his role in Ivory Coast's December 2010-April 2011 post-election crisis, sparked by Gbagbo's refusal to concede defeat in a presidential poll.

At least 3,000 people died in fighting before Gbagbo was eventually captured in Abidjan.

Goude came to the political fore for his skill in galvanising large-scale protests demanding the withdrawal of French military present in Ivory Coast in the years following a failed coup in 2002. He also mobilised thousands of men to join Ivory Coast's army.

France's former star colony was effectively cut in two following a failed attempt in 2002 by Guillaume Soro's rebel New Forces to oust Gbagbo. Rebels controlled the north and UN and French peacekeepers held the line.

Sanctioned by the UN in 2006, accused of inciting attacks against its staff, Goude went on the run in West Africa. He has spent time in Ghana in particular, home to a number of Gbagbo loyalists.

The militant leader of the pro-Gbagbo "Young Patriots" has been flagged as one of several supporters of the ex-president who could be tried by the International Criminal Court, joining Gbagbo, who has been detained by the Hague-based court since the end of 2011 pending trial for crimes against humanity.

In an interview with AFP in June 2012, Goude said he was innocent of any crimes.

"I am ready to go to the ICC because I have nothing to blame myself for," Goude said, insisting he had only organised peaceful protests.

Trial hearings for Gbagbo are set to begin on February 19.

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