Death of Ivorian shot by French peacekeepers to be investigated by military prosecutor

A French military prosecutor has opened an investigation into the death of an Ivorian civilian shot by French peacekeepers in May, judicial officials said Tuesday. Defense Ministry said it had suspended a French general who once headed the country's peacekeeping force in Ivory Coast. Two other officers were also suspended in connection with the death.

The ministry, in a complaint to the Paris Army Tribunal, said a detachment of French peacekeepers in the West African nation were believed to have injured the Ivorian when they responded to his gunfire, judicial officials said.

The French peacekeepers are suspected of a role in his death, "either because they didn't assist him (after he was injured), or through some more direct action," the complaint said, according to the officials. They spoke on condition of anonymity because French law does not allow the release of information from magistrates' investigations.

A statement Monday from the Defense Ministry suggested Gen. Henri Poncet and the two other suspended officers were suspected covering up aspects of the case. The ministry said it had new information revealing a "serious breach in the law, military rules and orders."

Ivory Coast has been split in two since a failed 2002 coup attempt sparked months of civil war and left the northern half of the country in rebel hands. A buffer zone separating the warring factions is patrolled by the French peacekeepers, as well as 6,000 U.N. troops. A.M.

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