The trial of the alleged perpetrators of the attacks on the Radisson Blu hotel and the restaurant La Terrasse in Bamako in 2015, including a figure of jihadism in the Sahel, opens Tuesday in the Malian capital, a rare event in a region that has been bruised for years by the violence of Islamist groups.
The main accused, the Mauritanian Fawaz Ould Ahmed (or Ahmeida), alias “Ibrahim 10”, lieutenant of the Algerian jihadist leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar, may not be on trial, however.
If he is summoned to appear before the Anti-Terrorist Assize Court of Bamako, this major figure of the Sahelian jihad of the 2010s would be one of some 200 detainees released in early October in exchange for four hostages, including the French Sophie Pétronin and the Malian politician Soumaïla Cissé.
His release, four years after his arrest in Bamako, as part of this controversial operation, is the subject of many rumors, but it has not been officially confirmed. The trial should in any case be held, whether he is present or not.
“Ibrahim 10” is accused of having, to “avenge the prophet” in the wake of the attacks against the weekly Charlie Hebdo, committed the attack on the restaurant La Terrasse in Bamako on April 6, 2015, killing a Frenchman, a Belgian and three Malians, according to elements of the investigation file consulted by AFP.
On November 20 of the same year, he allegedly “planned and executed” the assault on the Radisson Blu, a luxury hotel in the center of the Malian capital, according to the same source.
Two men had then “shot at everything that moves”, killing 20 people, including 14 foreigners, before being shot.
“Ibrahim 10”, a former merchant with colossal physique, active in the jihadist ranks since 2006, would have taken care of the logistics: renting a house, buying a motorbike and scouting in Bamako to “determine the target”.
“Complicity in assassination”
Two Malians, now in their twenties, must also be tried during a trial, the duration of which has not been specified.
The first, Sadou Chaka (alias Moussa – or Oussama – Maïga), was according to the investigators “in charge of the delivery of weapons to the target towns”. He was sixteen at the time; he is accused of being involved in the Radisson Blu attack.
Sadou Chaka is also suspected of having played a role in the attack on the Byblos hotel in Sévaré (central Mali), which killed 13 people in August 2015, and against the North-South hotel in Bamako, in March 2016, which had caused no death. These two attacks are not part of the case judged from Tuesday.
Fawaz Ould Ahmed and Sadou Chaka will face charges of “possession of weapons in connection with a terrorist enterprise”, “criminal association”, “financing of terrorism” and “complicity in assassination”.
The third defendant, Abdoulbaki Abdramane Maïga (alias Abou Mahamadoune), is suspected of having “followed paramilitary training”, but he is not involved in the attacks of Radisson Blu and the Terrace. He is accused of “criminal association” and “terrorist financing”.
Since the proliferation of jihadist groups in the Sahel at the dawn of the 2010s, attacks against the symbols of the State – armed forces, administration officials, notables – and against the interests of countries involved in the anti-jihadist fight have multiplied , mainly in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, killing hundreds.
To target Westerners, jihadist groups have carried out kidnappings and targeted symbolic establishments or establishments capable of accommodating them, such as hotels, restaurants or seaside resorts.
Among the most resounding, the attack of January 15, 2016 against the Cappuccino café-restaurant and the Splendid hotel in Ouagadougou, claimed by the branch of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqmi) and the Al-Mourabitoune group of Mokhtar Belmokhtar , had killed 30 people, mainly Westerners.
That of March 13, 2016 on the beach of the seaside resort of Grand-Bassam, near Abidjan, in Côte d’Ivoire, had killed 19 people, including four French.
Trials like the one to be held Tuesday in Bamako are rare in a devastated region, where borders are porous and states unable to control large swathes of their territory, and where judicial systems are often failing.
Not to mention that many suspects accused of being members of jihadist groups are regularly released as part of prisoner exchanges.