• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Ivory Coast massacre 'was symbolic attack on France'
Bodies lie on the beach after the attack that left four people dead. Photo: AFP

Ivory Coast massacre 'was symbolic attack on France'

AFP · 15 Mar 2016, 07:17

Published: 15 Mar 2016 07:17 GMT+01:00

When gunmen from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb killed 18 people at a beach resort in Ivory Coast, the jihadist group
was targeting its sworn enemy France, analysts said Monday.

Grand-Bassam, the palm tree-fringed beach town where the gunmen wrought carnage Sunday, killing four French citizens, was the country's first trading post in West Africa in the 19th century.

France also set up its first colonial administration centre at the same spot in 1893.

Even today, a bridge over the lagoon separates the district called "France" from the colonial-era villas and hotel of the same name. Another hotel there is called "Petit Paris".

"Hitting Ivory Coast is clearly a way of attacking France's historical ally in the region," said Antoine Glaser, author of a recently published critical account of French colonisation in Africa called "Arrogant comme un Francais en Afrique" (Arrogant like a Frenchman in Africa).

"Grand-Bassam is the historical capital of French colonisation, with a museum about missionaries and a French cemetery. It was the perfect target to send a message to France and Africa," he said. "In fact, it is astonishing that it was not better protected."

Glaser saw the attack as an attempt by AQIM, which the US-based SITE Intelligence Group said had claimed responsibility, to warn France that its actions in Africa were not without consequences.

"It allows AQIM to say to Paris: 'See, you are hunting down jihadists in Mali, in northern Niger and in the Sahel region of the Sahara, but we are striking at the heart of business and at the French presence in the region.'"

And the extremists did that by targeting Grand-Bassam, "a historic site where your expatriate executives go to the beach on Sundays," he added.

'Entirely predictable'

The French army has long been based in Ivory Coast and 600 soldiers are currently spread around four bases in the commercial capital Abidjan.

The attack is the first of its kind on Ivory Coast but the Tunisian resort of Sousse, the Malian capital Bamako and Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou have all been targeted in the past year. All are places where French citizens
work or play.

Ivorian Interior Minister Hamed Bakayoko said Monday that the attack had been preceded by warnings.

"Security forces have already foiled quite a few attempted attacks in the past. Our country has been a target for a few years."

AQIM's leader Yahya Abou El Hamame said in an interview in January with the Mauritanian site Al-Akbar that the group would "spare no effort" to strike countries in the region "which participate in this Crusader war against Umma
(the Islamic community)" and the Western interests based in those countries.

The attack on Ivory Coast was "entirely predictable", according to Isselmou Ould Salihi, a Mauritanian expert on jihadist groups.

"We can conclude from it that AQIM's move to widen its attacks across the region is the logical widening of the ongoing war against jihadists in northern Mali," he told AFP.

"So countries that take part in MINUSMA (the UN mission in Mali) will be directly or indirectly attacked, one by one.

Story continues below…

"The next target could logically be Senegal... which has played an anti-AQIM role."

He said: "AQIM is trying to weaken France's allies or those which take part in MINUSMA to push them to leave or to reduce their presence in Mali and to hit the economy of those countries which are generally reliant on the tourism sector."

He believes the extremists are also aiming to carry out "lightning strikes" on places which Westerners frequent.

Robert Besseling of Exx Africa, a specialist intelligence company, also said the attacks should not have come as a surprise.

"Ivory Coast has been receiving warnings for at least a year from France's intelligence service that Islamist militants are planning to attack major cities," he said.

"Information from human sources and intercepted communications revealed that Islamist groups planned to place car bombs or attack public spaces popular with expats in Ivory Coast or Senegal."

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
'War crimes committed in Aleppo': French UN envoy
A tractor clears rubble after a government strike on rebel areas of Aleppo. Photo: Thaer Mohammed/ AFP

France's envoy to the United Nations has called for an urgent Security Council meet on the war crimes he asserts are being committed in Aleppo.

'Curse of Phantom' strikes as Paris theatre burns
Anthony Crivello and Elizabeth Loyacano in the New York production of Phantom of the Opera. Photo: Really Useful Group

The curse of Phantom of the Opera has struck with a fire at a Paris theatre threatening the musical's French debut.

Two teenage girls held in France over 'terror plot'
The girls came from the same part of Nice, near Route de Turin, as Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, who carried out the nice attacks. Photo: Jesmar/Wikimedia Commons

Two teenage girls from Nice are being held on suspicion of planning a jihadi attack.

Focus
French fighter jet deal: India 'a school of patience'
Rafale jets at an assembly hanger in Merignac, southwestern France. Photo: Jean-Pierre Muller/AFP

The less-than-supersonic sale of French Rafale fighter jets to India has highlighted the obstacles facing foreign arms firms seeking to do business with the world's biggest weapons importer.

Hollande vows to 'completely dismantle' Calais Jungle
French President Francois Hollande visiting a refugee centre in Tours. Photo: Guillaume Souvant/AFP

President Francois Hollande has bowed to right-wing pressure and stepped up pledge to combat illegal migration.

First driverless minibus goes on trial in Paris
Gilbert Gagnaire, Director General of Easy Mile, poses in front of his driverless EZ10 minibus. Photo: Eric Feferberg/AFP

The French capital's transport authority will carry out its first test of a driverless minibus on Saturday.

Feature
Room for improvement: Paris's matchbox apartments
Receptionist Ivan Lopez in his tiny "chambre de bonne". Photo: Thomas Samson/AFP

Thousands of Parisians round off a hard day's work with a trudge up six flights of stairs to a tiny, stuffy room they resignedly call home.

Former president Chirac still in hospital but wife home
Bernadette Chirac executes a deal at the French Stock Exchange on September 12. Photo: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP

Former French president Jacques Chirac remains in hospital in Paris but his wife Bernadette has now been discharged.

Pope holds multi-faith meeting with Nice victims
Pope Francis kisses a baby on arrival at his weekly audience in St Peter's Square. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/ AFP

Pope Francis will on Saturday hold a multi-faith meeting of grieving relatives and survivors of an attack in France in July when a jihadist ploughed his truck into a crowd in Nice.

Cameron school pal appointed UK ambassador to France
Ed Llewellyn has spent time in the European Commission. Photo: Gov.uk

Ed Llewellyn attended the Eton College at the same time as former PM David Cameron, and then served as his chief of staff throughout his eleven years as Conservative leader.

Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
National
France's Marion Cotillard rebuffs rumours of fling with Brad Pitt
National
Eight arrested over links to Nice truck attacker
Features
Why everyone should party in a French chateau at least once
Travel
The Frenchman who hated 'Nazi-Zealand' after four-day hitch-hike fail
Culture
What's on: Ten exciting events across France in September
The 45-million year old underground shells that flavour Champagne
Features
French job speak: All the terms you need to know
'Resilient' Paris now a more appealing city than New York
National
France says it's OK to warn drivers about speed cameras
Meet Honorine, 113, the oldest person in France
Education
Grenoble named France's best city to be a student
Society
New Metro map reveals cheapest pints of beer in Paris
Business & Money
How reliant is the French economy on Paris?
Society
Here's why Parisians want to move to Bordeaux
And the 'best place to spend a weekend in Europe' is… Lyon
Analysis & Opinion
'Muslims in France must be considered ordinary citizens'
Armed guards to ride French trains from October
National
France among Europe's priciest for train travel
National
Paris set to make river bank car-free for six-month trial
Society
Bordeaux hospital ranked as best in France
National
France rolls out 'world's first' driverless buses
Society
15 things a Frenchwoman can do to feel more British
Culture
Every fact you need to know about France's 'départements'
2,727
jobs available