The massacre at the seaside town of Grand-Bassam was carried out by al-Qaeda in 2016, with 19 people losing their lives in Ivory Coast’s first jihadi attack.
A court in Ivory Coast sentenced 11 people to life in prison on Wednesday for their involvement in an Islamic extremist attack that occurred almost seven years ago in the Grand-Bassam resort area. Only four of the 18 accused were physically present in the Abidjan courtroom.
The attack, carried out by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, resulted in the deaths of 19 people and the injury of numerous others. It was the first extremist attack of its kind in the Ivory Coast and one of the most violent in the region.
The defendants were convicted of charges ranging from terrorism, murder, attempted murder, criminal concealment, illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, “and complicity in these deeds,” said public prosecutor Richard Adou.
The 14 others, including the suspected masterminds, are either on the run or being held in Mali, Aude Rimailho, a lawyer for French civilian plaintiffs, said before the trial. Seven of the 14 were handed life sentences in absentia, and another seven were acquitted.
Jihadi attacks in West Africa have spiked
Eleven Ivorians, including three special forces troops, died in the 2016 attack.
Four French citizens were also killed, and other foreign victims included citizens of Germany, Lebanon, North Macedonia and Nigeria.
Heavily armed gunmen stormed the Grand-Bassam beach resort town 40 kilometers (25 miles) southeast of the economic hub Abidjan. The 45-minute bloodbath ended only when security forces shot the attackers dead.
Since the Grand-Bassam killings, jihadi attacks in West Africa have spiked. The Sahel region in neighboring Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso has been overrun by violence, which is now spreading to coastal states, including Ivory Coast.
Mastermind still at large
Survivors of the attack were satisfied with the verdict but said they wouldn’t get closure until all those responsible were in jail.
“It’s good, but unfortunately everything is not perfect because the mastermind was not on the stand. 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 Mali national and the alleged mastermind of the attack, are unknown. An international warrant has been issued for his arrest, said the court.
The victims’ families were awarded varying compensation of up to $81,000.
lo/dj (AP, AFP)