Eleven people convicted for extremist attack in Ivory Coast

Eleven people convicted for extremist attack in Ivory Coast

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ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) – Eleven people were sentenced to life in prison in Ivory Coast on Wednesday after being convicted of carrying out an extremist Islamist attack that killed 19 people and injured dozens more on a tourist beach nearly seven years ago. seen.

The killings in the Grand-Bassam resort area were carried out by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and were the country’s first extremist attack of its kind and one of the bloodiest in the region.

The long-awaited verdict was read by Judge Charles Bini in a packed and somber courtroom in the capital Abidjan, where 18 defendants have been on trial since November. Only four of the accused were physically present, each of whom was sentenced to life imprisonment. Seven of the accused were found not guilty, Bini said. The families of the victims were awarded varying compensation of up to $81,000.

Grand-Bassam is connected by highway to Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s largest city, and is a popular weekend destination. When gunfire erupted on the beach on a Sunday afternoon in March 2016, many vacationers initially thought they were hearing fireworks. But as armed jihadists approached, terrified tourists and workers tried to seek shelter in nearby hotels. Several beachgoers who were in the ocean at the time of the attack swam across the waves to safety.

The casualties that day included 11 Ivorians, four French, one German, one Lebanese, one Macedonian and one Nigerian.

Survivors of the attack were pleased with the verdict, but said they would not stop until they were all caught.

“It is good, but unfortunately everything is not perfect because the organizer was not in the stands. It will be over for the victims when he is caught,” said Patrick Colin, manager of a hotel in Grand-Bassam.

The whereabouts of Kounta Dallah, a Malian national and suspected mastermind of the attack, are unknown. An international arrest warrant has been issued for his arrest, the court said.

Since the Grand-Bassam killings, jihadist attacks in West Africa have increased. The Sahel region of Mali, Niger and neighboring Burkina Faso has been gripped by violence, which is now spreading to coastal states, including Ivory Coast. Between July and December there were three jihadist attacks in the country, compared to none in the same period a year earlier, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project.

That it took so long to reach a decision in Ivory Coast shows the complexity of the process, but also sends a message to those involved in extremist attacks that they will eventually pay the price, conflict analysts say.

“Credit (to) the Ivorian authorities, security and intelligence agencies for gathering all the information and evidence to bring those responsible to justice, it obviously took a lot of work behind the scenes to get here,” said Rida Lyammouri, senior associate at the Policy Center for the New South, an organization based in Morocco.

Despite the court’s decision, relatives of the survivors say their lives have changed forever.

“I was lucky that my son (survived),” said Odile Kouamenan. “Though traumatized, he’s still alive.”

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