Côte d’Ivoire: Trial opens for 18 accused in 2016 beach resort attack

Côte d’Ivoire: Trial opens for 18 accused in 2016 beach resort attack

The trial of 18 people arrested in connection with the deadly 2016 Islamic extremist attack that killed 19 people at a beach resort in Grand-Bassam, Côte d’Ivoire, opened on Wednesday (30 November) in the country’s main city, Abidjan.

Four of the defendants appeared to face murder and terrorism charges for the Grand-Bassam killings, which were later claimed by Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. When gunfire broke out on the beach on that Sunday afternoon in 2016, many holiday-makers initially thought it was fireworks going off, but as the jihadis approached closer with their Kalashnikovs, terrified people tried to seek refuge in nearby hotels or by swimming out against the waves to safety. It was the first terror attack of its kind in the West African country and it deepened fears that Islamic extremism was spreading further south from neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso. In the year after the attack, suspects also were arrested in those countries as well as in Senegal.

Prosecutors did not address where the other defendants were on Wednesday or whether they might appear at a later date. Prosper Kouassi, a defense lawyer representing the detainees, could not provide an explanation either.

Grand-Bassam is linked by highway to Abidjan, the country’s commercial hub, and was a popular weekend destination for beach-goers. The victims that day included 11 Ivorians, four French, one German, one Lebanese, one Macedonian and one Nigerian. The trial is expected to last until the end of December.

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