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President vows to punish wrongdoers

Ivory Coast's president says he knows nothing about brutal killings committed by his forces the day after his inauguration and defended a senior officer accused of separate atrocities as one of the country's best soldiers.

President Alassane Ouattara, whose election victory in November was followed by a violent, four-month-long stand-off with the country's former ruler, said in an interview that all those found to have committed atrocities would be punished, no matter their position.

"I am against impunity," he said.

But a report by Amnesty International released on Wednesday accuses Mr Ouattara's Republican Forces of continuing to carry out violence and intimidation against ethnic groups perceived as having supported his predecessor, Laurent Gbagbo.

A different report by Human Rights Watch released in June alleges that forces loyal to Mr Ouattara killed up to 149 people believed to be Gbagbo supporters.

The rights group cited a witness who said that a commander loyal to Mr Ouattara, Cherif Ousmane, ordered the execution of 29 detainees.

Two others said they saw Mr Ousmane in a car that "disposed of the tortured and executed body of an infamous militia leader".

"This cannot be true," Mr Ouattara said. "Cherif Ousmane is one of the best soldiers."

In fact, he added, soldiers who serve under Cmr Ousmane are known for being well-trained, polite and helpful.

"In any case, if we discover that anyone has committed atrocities, that person will be properly judged and sanctions will be taken," the president said.

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