Charles Ble Goude, a key figure in post-electoral violence in Ivory Coast 11 years ago, returned to the country Saturday for the first time in more than eight years, an AFP reporter said.
The former right-hand man to ex-president Laurent Gbagbo, dubbed the "street general" for his ability to organise a crowd, was acquitted along with Gbagbo of crimes against humanity charges by the International Criminal Court last year.
Wearing a suit and tie, the 50-year-old Ble Goude landed at the airport in the capital Abidjan after flying in on a commercial flight from neighbouring Ghana, according to an AFP reporter on the scene.
Around a dozen people including Simone Gbagbo -- wife of the ex-president -- had gathered to welcome the controversial figure.
Ble Goude soon disappeared into a vehicle and out of sight.
Members of his circle said he would head to the capital's district of Yopougon for a "party" -- not a "political gathering" -- in the afternoon.
Security was tight around the airport. A few hours before his arrival, police shooed away most journalists, and a planned press statement was cancelled.
President Alassane Ouattara's office has approved the return.
The West African state remains deeply scarred by the 2010-11 conflict, which erupted after Gbagbo refused to concede electoral defeat to Ouattara.
Some 3,000 people were killed.
Gbagbo was arrested in April 2011.
Ble Goude was detained in Ghana in 2013 and transferred to The Hague the following year.