By Kwasi Kpodo
ACCRA (Reuters) - Charles Ble Goude, a former youth leader and close ally of Ivory Coast's ex-president and international war crimes defendant Laurent Gbagbo, was arrested in neighboring Ghana on Thursday, a Ghanaian official and exiled Gbagbo supporters said.
As head of the Young Patriots street militia, Ble Goude was a powerful member of the old regime. He rose to become minister of youth before fleeing at the end of a civil war sparked by Gbagbo's refusal to accept a 2010 election defeat to Alassane Ouattara.
"I can confirm that we have arrested someone we believe is the former Ivorian youth minister," Larry Gbevlo-Lartey, Ghana's national security coordinator, told Reuters.
"There's a warrant for his arrest and we have been looking for him for sometime now. We're taking him through the process and we'll later hand him over," he said.
Ble Goude is wanted by Ivorian authorities for alleged kidnappings, illegal detentions, torture, incitement of hatred and economic crimes while a member of Gbagbo's inner circle.
He is currently also subject to United Nations-imposed sanctions including a travel ban and asset freeze.
Exiled Gbagbo supporters living in France and Ghana said Ble Goude was arrested in the capital Accra around 8 AM (0800 GMT) by eight Ghanaian and Ivorian plain-clothes policemen. They said he was being detained at the headquarters of Ghana's Bureau of National Investigations.
"We are deeply worried, because he was in Ghana where he was living underground. We fear there will be an extradition demand," Alain Toussaint, a former spokesman for Gbagbo now living in France, told Reuters.
Most top military and political officials from Gbagbo's regime were killed, are in jail in Ivory Coast or now living in exile, many of them in Ghana.
While Ghanaian police last year arrested former budget minister Justin Kone Katinan, Ivory Coast's request for his extradition has been stuck in the courts for months.
Ghana has previously stated it considers the exiles to be refugees and has yet to extradite any Gbagbo supporters.
Gbagbo was captured by French-backed fighters loyal to Ouattara as the post-election violence drew to a close in April 2011. He is now awaiting trial before the International Criminal Court in The Hague on charges that he was responsible for crimes against humanity during the post-election bloodshed.
(Reporting by Ange Aboa in Abidjan and Gerard Bon in Paris; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by David Lewis and Mark Heinrich)