ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast — The leader of strongman Laurent Gbagbo's party urged die-hard militants to lay down their arms and called for national reconciliation Saturday, even as shooting erupted in a suburb of Abidjan.
Pascal Affi N'Guessan read a declaration to the nation saying "the war has ended" following Gbagbo's arrest Monday. He urged "an end to the death of our compatriots," saying the people of Ivory Coast must "give a chance to the restoration of peace" and halt the "revenge killings, the looting."
Gbagbo, who has ruled since 2000, refused to accept defeat at Nov. 28 elections that he had delayed for five years. He took a last stand in Abidjan, the commercial capital, where remaining loyalist troops turned heavy weapons on civilians. He was arrested by forces loyal to internationally recognized President Alassane Ouattara after U.N. and French troops bombed the presidential palace. Affi N'Guessan was accompanied by Gbagbo's former foreign minister, Alcide Djedje, who told the Associated Press that Gbagbo is under the protection of U.N. peacekeepers in northern Korhogo town, a Ouattara stronghold.
Djedje said he, at least two other ministers and several legislators also have been given U.N. protection in Abidjan, after an agreement was reached Thursday with Ouattara's government. He said Gbagbo's wife, Simone, who is accused of encouraging his intransigence, remains in Abidjan with nearly 100 other prisoners of the former regime.
Meanwhile, state radio reported that Gbagbo's interior minister, Desire Tagro, died on Tuesday after being shot and badly beaten by fighters who captured him Monday along with Gbagbo.
The International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, has said it is conducting a preliminary examination into crimes perpetrated by all sides in the conflict in this West African nation.
Thousands of people have been killed and wounded, according to the International Federation of the Red Cross.