Rebel warlord killed outside nightclub

Adama Coulibaly, a rebel warlord in Cote d'Ivoire's northern city of Korhogo, was dragged out of a nightclub and shot dead by unidentified assailants in the early hours of Sunday. But there is a dispute over who pulled the trigger.

Colonel Soumaila Bakayoko, the chief of staff of rebel forces occupying the north of Cote d'Ivoire, told Radio France International (RFI) on Monday that Coulibaly, who was better known by his nom de guerre “Adams,” was killed by one of his Liberian bodyguards after a scuffle.

However, two of the bodyguards told IRIN that Adams had been killed by masked assassins sent by the rebel leadership in Bouake.

Adams was a prominent supporter of Master Sargent Ibrahim Coulibaly, widely known as "IB," an exiled hero of the rebel movement who is widely seen as a potential challenger to Guillaume Soro, the official leader of the insurgents.

Adams was also the notorious rival of another rebel commander in Korhogo known as "Bin Laden." On 22 January, four people were killed in the city as the two sides fought a gun battle for the control of a disputed petrol tanker.

The murdered warlord had long been an embarrassment to the rebel leadership because he employed 42 Liberian mercenaries as his personal bodyguards. They followed him to Korhogo from the west of Cote of d'Ivoire where he had been deployed as a frontline commander until April last year.

A man known as "Ellis" who was the leader of Adams' bodyguard told IRIN on Monday that the Liberians had failed to save their boss last Sunday because he always insisted on going to nightclubs unaccompanied.

Ellis said Adams was led out of the nightclub to a nearby basketball court where he was ritually stabbed in the neck before two shots were fired into the wound to finish him off.

Ellis and his deputy, Awa Michel, said there was no longer any future for Liberian fighters in Cote d'Ivoire and they would try to seek refuge in Burkina Faso or Mali.

Bakayoko, the rebel chief of staff, was in Korhogo a few hours before Adams' death. On Saturday he took part in a meeting with French peacekeeping forces to discuss the eventual disarmament of the rebels, who have controlled the northern half of Cote d'Ivoire since the outbreak of civil war in September 2002.

Bakayoko is generally seen as close to Soro, a former student leader who is secretary general of the New Forces rebel movement.

In recent months Soro's authority has increasingly been challenged by supporters of IB, a key figure in the 1999 coup that brought the military government of General Robert Guei to power.

IB is currently free on bail in France, where he was arrested last August on charges of plotting to overthrow Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo.