Laurent Gbagbo (photo, from nytimes.com) was captured on Monday in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, following a week-long siege of his residence.
He is being held by the forces of Alassane Ouattara, recognised as the country’s president by the international community.
“The United Nations mission in Cote d’Ivoire has confirmed that former President Laurent Gbagbo has surrendered to the forces of Alassane Ouattara and is currently in their custody,” UN spokesman Farhan Haq said on Monday.
He added that the UN mission, known as UNOCI, was “providing protection and security in accordance with its mandate.”
Mr Gbagbo has been “arrested by French special forces in his residence” and “handed over to the rebel leaders”, Toussaint Alain, a Gbagbo advisor, told the Reuters news agency
The capture was confirmed to the AFP news agency by Jean Marc Simon, the French ambassador to Ivory Coast, who said he was detained by soldiers loyal to Ouattara.
Mr Gbagbo, his wife and several advisors are being held at the Gulf Hotel, a Ouattara spokesman told Al Jazeera. This hotel became Mr Outtara’s headquarters in November, after the disputed presidential election.
According to Ivory Coast ambassador to the United Nations, Youssoufou Bamba, Mr Gbagbo is “alive and well”, and he will “be brought to justice for the crimes he has committed”.
Guillaume Soro, Mr Ouattara’s prime minister, has made an appeal to rivals to join his side : “To all the forces, I make a last appeal to rally [with us] … there cannot be a manhunt.”
“Join the Republican forces!”
UN peacekeeping authorities have been contacted by the chief of Mr Gbagbo’s forces who said that they wish to surrender their weapons, the UN said.
Shortly after the arrest, the French president Nicolas Sarkozy spoke with Mr Ouattara on the phone, the Elysee palace said.
British foreign minister William Hague said that Mr Gbagbo must be “treated with respect and any judicial process that follows should be a fair and properly organised judicial process”.
US secretary of state Hillary Clinton called “on all Ivorians to remain calm and contribute to building a peaceful future for their country”.
Jerzy Buzek, the president of the European Parliament, said that Mr Ouattara “should now confirm his statesman qualities and take concrete steps to foster national reconciliation”.
Following a briefing at the United Nations Security Council, Alain Le Roy, Under Secretary-General and Head of Peacekeeping, said that UNOCI was acting under its mandate by now providing security to Mr Gbagbo as he had requested the protection himself.
“It is up to President Ouattara to decide … what he wants to do with former president Gbagbo,” Le Roy said.
Although he described the arrest as an “important step” to end the violence, Mr Le Roy warned that the crisis was not over in the country.