Police question French general over prison’s death in Ivory Coast

Police on Tuesday were questioning the general who led French peacekeepers in Ivory Coast when members of the force killed a prisoner and failed to report it. Police spokeswoman Catherine Driguet confirmed that Gen. Henri Poncet was being questioned as part of the probe into the suffocation death of Firmin Mahe in a French armored vehicle in the west African country. Driguet said she did not know whether Poncet was under arrest.

The Defense Ministry said in November that Mahe, a suspected gang leader, was killed by French soldiers and that commanders knew of the killing but did not report it to their superiors.

Poncet, who commanded France's 4,000-strong peacekeeping force in Ivory Coast at the time of the May 13 killing, has already been given an official warning. The head of France's armed forces, Gen. Henri Bentegeat, has called the events "unacceptable at every level."

Ivory Coast has been in turmoil since 2002, when rebels launched a failed coup and seized the northern half of the world's largest cocoa producer. Loyalists forces in the south and rebels in the north are in a tense stalemate, with U.N. and African Union mediators trying to mediate a resolution and about 10,000 French and U.N. peacekeepers overseeing a fragile truce.

Many Ivorians question the motives of forces from their country's former colonial master, and Mahe's killing has increased their suspicions, reports the AP. I.L.

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